BPP Law School has been put under scrutiny after the Bar Standards Board (BSB) published a report on its ’triggered visit’ to the institution, which was prompted by the fact BPP’s BVC was oversubscribed.
After carrying out an investigation of the school, the BSB published a report at the end of February. The report explained what the investigation had entailed: “The focus of discussion was on the reasons for overrecruitment, how it had come about, the nature of infringement of the contract and what might be done to correct the situation – given that the students are of primary concern.”
BPP is authorised to take on a maximum of 264 full-time students a year and 96 part-time. However, the BSB found that the school had exceeded that number by 54 on its full-time course and by one on its part-time course at the time of its visit on 6 October last year.
However, BPP, which is one of the biggest BVC providers in the country, had managed to thin out its intake by October after it asked students to consider pushing back their start dates in return for a ’loyalty discount’ of 15 per cent.
Chief executive of BPP College and dean of BPP Law School Peter Crisp explained that it was common practice among law schools to offer slightly more places than they are validated for on the basis that not everybody accepts.
“As far as we’re concerned last year was just a blip,” he explained. “On one level it’s flattering that so many people want to come to BPP; and the best students too – nearly 25 per cent have first-class degrees.”
But the school will not have to worry about making the numbers fit for the next three years because the BSB has requested in its report that BPP employ the services of an independent statistician for three years to prevent it once again exceeding its certified intake.
“The statistician is looking at our offer patterns and acceptance rates over the past few years to help us predict enrolments,” admitted Crisp. “It is, all in all, a very positive report and I’m pleased that the report confirms that the oversubscription was inadvertent on our part.”
But Crisp’s arch-rival, College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage, said that by breaking the rules BPP had, inadvertently or not, enjoyed a bonus in terms of fee income.
“Whatever way you look at it they’ve made a tidy profit by doing this,” insisted Savage. “You can excuse five or 10 over your quota, but not more than 50. That to me looks deliberate.
“And by the BSB bringing in the statistician, it’s like BPP has been put into special measures.”
While some of this scepticism could be read as sour grapes from rivals, the investigation came at a bad time for BPP. As reported by The Lawyer last year (23 November 2009), BPP Law School’s long-term goal of transforming itself into a full-blown university was thrown into jeopardy thanks to its US parent Apollo Group being investigated by the SEC
in connection with accounting irregularities.
The probe was the second time Apollo had been investigated by the SEC for its revenue recognition policies. The former investigation was understood to be related to the way Apollo accounted for revenue relating to students enrolling at the University of Phoenix, who were refunded for dropping out early.
In a separate case, the University of Phoenix was embroiled in an $80m (£47.93m) pay dispute with staff. It is understood that in 2004 Apollo paid out nearly $10m to staff after it allegedly broke the law by tying their remuneration to student enrolments.
In a statement Apollo clarified that it is attempting to settle and resolve a six-year-old False Claims Act lawsuit, in which the US Department of Justice declined to intervene, relating to its compliance with a single provision of the Higher Education Act. A previous $9.8m settlement was with the US Department of Education to resolve similar allegations.
But not everybody is taking the recent blunders as a sign that BPP is troubled. One graduate recruitment partner at a firm that has signed an exclusive LPC deal with the school admitted that, although he will be monitoring the situation carefully, he will “not be losing any sleep” over the investigations.
“BPP is still an excellent provider and our trainees benefit from attending it,” he stated.