BPP expansion plans trigger JLD crisis talks

The Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) is to hold an emergency meeting to discuss BPP Law School’s plans to expand into Cambridge, Liverpool and Newcastle.

The meeting scheduled for 6 November is aimed to gauge members’ views on BPP’s shock expansion plans, announced last Friday (read more), and to build an official response to be submitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

JLD committee member Kevin Poulter argued: “How can expansion be right in a time when the profession is still contracting, with however many thousands of those graduating from the LPC left without a training contract?

“I would like to invite the SRA to consult the JLD, the profession in general and other LPC providers with decisions like this.”

Poulter claimed that an expansion only encourages students to apply, and due to BPP’s high profile, another knock-on effect will be the effect on legal institutions already established in those cities.

“Are we seeing fair competition? BPP will send out its glossy brochures that will trump and push institutions out of the market, such as Northumbria [Law School], which has a good, if not excellent standard of LPC,” said Poulter.

In response to JLD’s arguments, BPP’s chief executive Peter Crisp said: “I think that is a very naïve and very narrow view. The JLD should be welcoming this as it’s helping students by making programmes more accessible and affordable by bringing the programmes to them rather than bringing them to the programme.”

Crisp added that BPP is trying to raise standards and bring a high quality programme to as many students as possible, while being absolutely explicit about the amount of training contracts available.

“It is completely illogical, the notion that somehow the JLD should control where and when law schools should expand to. I think it is also insulting to students, as they do their own research, look into the courses and therefore go in with their eyes open. We should allow students to make an informed decision,” added Crisp.

If JLD committee members are in agreement, the arguments will be taken to the SRA and lobbied in the hope of a response, prior to authorisation by the SRA validation planned to take place in the New Year.

BPP’s decision to launch three new centres comes just weeks after the law school opened bases in Birmingham and Bristol. The move will result in BPP having nine branches compared to College of Law’s eight.