Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The College of Law: More misinformation

It is absolutely fine that the Guardian doesn't read my blog (you can supply your own peeved tone of voice for this sentence if you wish), but it is a shame they didn't read WonkHE before putting more misinformation about the sale of the College of Law in the public domain. To repeat, the degree awarding powers of the College have not been sold, and the concern identified in the piece is mostly either inaccurate or beside the point. This, in particular, is pure tosh:

These mechanisms appear to avoid many of the difficulties involved in transferring the valuable power to award degrees, which most institutions have earned over years – sometimes centuries – to new organisations, and offer for-profit companies a way into the booming higher education market.
This could be especially valuable since the higher education white paper, which had included measures to make it easier for new providers to award degrees, has been indefinitely delayed.

The proposals in the White Paper were to make it easier for organisations that do not teach to get degree awarding powers. In the College of Law case, Montagu has bought the teaching business and the scope for teaching businesses (such as BPP, for instance) to earn degree awarding powers  is now well established in England. The future, profit-making, College of Law will therefore not be doing anything new by having degree awarding powers and would have been quite able to gain them under existing powers and practices in the pre-White Paper world. 

The concerns reported from UCU and QAA

"What the College of Law shows is that charity law isn't enough," says UCU's general secretary, Sally Hunt. "The government needs to take urgent action to ensure that public assets and investment are protected and any change of ownership should trigger an immediate review of degree-awarding powers."
The Quality Assurance Agency is also seeking discussions on this with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. "It is an issue we have raised some concerns about," says Stephen Jackson, the QAA's director of reviews. "The concern is that new owners might have plans for an entity which might go beyond those originally envisaged when it was given degree-awarding powers."

whilst perhaps valid in other contexts (such as the sale of BPP, for instance) have nothing to do with this case where the entity which will change ownership is not the charity with degree-awarding powers, but a new, specially-created company. Whatever proposal Montagu and the College have agreed to ensure that this company gains DAPs (I speculated here, but there are other possible approaches), it will certainly not involve a change of ownership of the existing chartered corporation, which is the legal entity with DAPs.

Surely blogs are the place for baseless speculation, whilst respectable newspapers should be reporting the facts?

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