BPP Law School v The College of Law
Full marks to The Lawyer for a most amusing article written by John Parker (Who I had the pleasure of talking to this afternoon – thanks for permission to quote) on the war which is breaking out among the UK’s ‘Top’ (vocational) law schools. I use the term vocational with deliberation, since the epithet ‘top’ appears to be given to these LPC providers and I would not wish to confuse a vocational law school with a ‘top’ academically oriented university.
Let me set the scene with a quote from The Lawyer article:
“London’s legal education market has just got hotter than ever before. Not only will the College of Law and BPP Law School be opening second sites in London in September to house a further 1,500 students, but rival Nottingham Law School (NLS) is planning to launch in the capital in conjunction with US business training giant Kaplan next autumn”
Nottingham Law School is probably the best vocational law school in the country. I say probably, because they have maintained a perfect record of ‘Excellent’ grades on their LPC for years – something which neither BPP nor The College of Law have, yet, managed to do – although The College now has the prized ‘Commendable’ award for their LPC in London. BPP had an excellent rating but it went down to ‘Very Good’ for their London venue in a recent inspection round (April 2005). [Other BPP venues have yet to be assessed by The Law Society under the new scheme and are likely to receive a high rating. The BPP Law School in Manchester has been graded in the top classification for all categories]
Addendum: 6th July – I am grateful to Jo Green, of The Law Society, for pointing me to the new grading schme which replaces the old Excellent to Satisfactory grades which applied before. Here is the Explanation of the new system
Well…it seems that the Nottingham Law School / Kaplan ‘axis of commercial enterprise’ has not met with the approval of the two heavyweights in London LPC provision, Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law and Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP Law School. Does it sound to me like worry over additional high quality provision in London or worry about their collective domination of market share in London being swept away from under their feet?
Let us look at the evidence, in so far as it exists from the existing source of The Lawyer article.
“Kaplan will use them like we used them and then they’ll be dumped,” snorts Peter Crisp, chief executive of BPP Law School. “Why else would Kaplan be doing it?”
[As it happens Mike Semple Piggot, CEO of SPR, which publishes Consilio/Legal Practitioner online magazines, was the (founding) CEO of BPP Law School at the time. Nigel Savage was, in fact, Dean of Nottingham Law School. The co-operation between BPP and Nottingham – revolutionary at the time, did change the face of legal education because it permitted a private sector teaching institution to get a foothold in this sector of education. Mike Semple Piggot recalls a formal agreement between BPP and Nottingham which worked well for both parties.]
Nigel Savage, CEO, The College of Law, rides, lance held high with great pace, with the comment (again, extracted from The Lawyer report):
“Nottingham is giving birth to another competitor,” he declares. “It’s not about what’s in the contract, it’s about building up sustainability in another provider.”
Savage, not unreasonably, questions Kaplan’s record by owning non American Bar accredited Concord Law School and ‘little known’ Holborn College. He cannot, of course, question Nottingham’s excellent pedigree which he, Peter Jones, Phil Knott, Bob White and others established in the early 1990s and which has been sustained since.
I have some misgivings about elitism in legal education. The Big Two in London have sown up some mouth watering contracts with big firms and the price of LPC courses is rising. Nottingham, almost certainly, will bring their ‘excellence’ to London and maybe London students, who can’t get into the Big Two because they are stuffed to the gunnels with City trainees (or who do not choose to work for a big City firm – yes, that is a possibility) , will have a chance of getting a great course without having to go up to Nottingham. Charon welcomes this development and will watch with interest.
Mike Semple Piggot is contacting all the protagonists to find out more and either there will be an article under his name on Consilio / Legal Practitioner or through Charon – depending on the gravity of the matter. As this is not a ‘gravity article’ I am allowed to comment here.
My final observation again relies on John Parker’s acuity in asking the key questions. John makes the point that Kaplan are rich. He suggested that Kaplan would have no real difficulty in recruiting staff if they paid top dollar (hinting at a concomittant reduction in quality of staff available to other providers?)
Peter Crisp, somewhat amusingly for a CEO of a law school owned by a very successful education and training PLC, remarked:
“Kaplan have to return value to shareholders and they can’t just write blank cheques.”
Peter… I have bad news for you. Kaplan have the ability and resources to pay top dollar and I have a feeling they will. Certainly Mike Semple Piggot recalls that BPP Law School was generous in paying good fees to lecturers when establishing the LPC and BVC accreditations – a policy which seems to have been quite successful in giving return to BPP shareholders on the assumption that BPP Law School is doing rather well.
I may return to this. I may not. Maybe it will be dealt with in more detail by Consilio if the story develops into something with too much gravitas for Charon to trouble with.