View guides

Private University Expansion Plans Criticised

Posted by Richard Ward in , ,

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

A report into government plans to expand private providers in the UK's university sector have been labelled as a risk too far.

Produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute, the study highlighted that the cost of student finance for these alternative providers quadrupled in four years to £382m.

The document also warned against a high-speed process of allowing new providers to award their own degrees, however the Department for Education suggested the proposals would provide students with greater choice.

Robin Middlehurst, co-author of the report, referred to the United States, suggesting their "overly generous rules for alternative providers are a magnet for questionable business practices".

In particular, the study raised concerns about the rapid expansion in for-profit higher education colleges in the US, raising concerns about recruitment tactics, dropout rates and access to student finance support.

The Higher Education and Research Bill, which is currently before parliament, outlines a combined system for regulating traditional universities and alternative providers with the aim of encouraging a wider market for students. However, it's argued that more than two-thirds of alternative providers could still remain outside of regulations.

Currently there are more than 700 alternative providers, with nearly 300,000 students enrolled. Over 120 of these providers run courses eligible for student finance, which has seen the cost of tuition fee and maintenance loans in this sector increasing from £94m to £382m between 2010-11 and 2014-15.