Legal education, BPP and the Freedom of Information Act

With the news today that BPP Law school’s owners, Apollo Global (who now call the tune) are being investigated for a second time by the United States SEC – this time for accounting issues on revenue recognition – I feel the time has come to push for BPP Law School to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act in exactly the same way as all university providers of the LPC and BSB are.  BPP Law School is not subject to the FOIA.   The College of Law, a charity, is also not subject to the FOI legislation  but they have been more prepared to be open and transparent than BPP law School has been.

1.  I have written repeatedly to BPP Law School’s Chief Executive, Peter Crisp, asking for the QAA report on their application for degree awarding powers (which they were granted by the Privy Council) to be made public.  I wrote again today.  I have not even had the courtesy of a reply to my last three emails on the subject over the past three months. This, does not trouble me.  I am but a blogger – but what have they got to hide in the QAA report?  Why won’t they reveal it?
Here is my earlier Transparency in Legal Education post

The College of Law is prepared to make public the QAA report on their degree awarding powers application.

Catrin Griffiths, Editor of The Lawyer, notes “BPP has been assiduously courting the Tories, with chief executive Peter Crisp up at the party ­conference this autumn doing the prawn cocktail rounds. It has just been allowed to award degrees, but is not yet classed as a university – much as it would like to be.Despite the University of Buckingham’s ­comparative success, private providers of higher education have been viewed with a certain amount of apprehension among the Labour establishment, but a Conservative government would be more sympathetic. For BPP, the timing of the SEC inquiry couldn’t be more awkward.”

2. If I want to find out about enrolments, pass rates, drop out rates etc,  at law schools run by universities I can simply put in a freedom of information request and the universities will, generally, give me this information.  I know this to be the case because a friend of mine, Norman Bair of QED Law has been doing just that for years. If, however, I want to get the same information from BPP Law School I am, now, met with silence.  It is, of course, BPP Law School’s prerogative to keep this information SECRET and it also their prerogative to ignore my emails on the issue, despite the fact that Peter Crisp in two podcasts with me agreed that BPP Law School would be prepared to provide the same information as university law schools are required to provide.

The BSB report on BPP’s oversubscription by 63 students on their BVC course is due soon.  Was this a simple bit of bad admin or was it to inflate the value of BPP for sale to Apollo purposes?  We don’t know.  Perhaps we never will.  All I have received from BPP was a press release they sent out to others who asked the same questions! The BSB report will be made public, I am advised.

BPP Law School should be made subject to the Freedom of Information Act – directly, or indirectly.

BPP Law School is now part of a US education group, a very successful education group which owns the University of Phoenix.  It is a multi-million dollar global business.  It is also an education group being investigated by the SEC for a second time – and this may well turn out to be a very minor matter.  Whatever the outcome of that, Apollo now has degree awarding powers in the United Kingdom – the only private for profit organisation in Britain to have such powers. Remember… the degree awarding powers are not limited to law and business.  Any field of study can be linked to a course and a degree provided.  The College of Law has these powers.  The College of Law is a charity.  There is no difficulty whatsoever with education being in private hands, but my argument.. and certainly in so far as it related to legal education, a matter very much affecting the public interest, is that BPP should be subject to the Freedom of Information legislation. My view is that students, parents and sponsors of students should be able to see this information and be able to ask any questions they wish in so far as permitted by the freedom of information legislation and get straight answers through a formal request under the FOIA if the information is not given freely.

I accept that the government already has enough on its hands in the 33 legislating days remaining – but why can’t the SRA and the BSB make it a condition of accreditation to run LPCs and BPTCs that BPP Law School provide exactly the same level of information to the public, when requested, as all other providers are required to do or, in the case of The College of Law, will provide voluntarily?

Frankly… one rule for BPP and another rule for the university law schools is no longer acceptable.

As ever, I am interested in your views – and if you think this is only fair, please pass this idea onto your colleagues, fellow academics and fellow students.  BPP Law School don’t listen to me on this… but they may well listen to you… or a lot of you, should you be minded to tell them.

***

UPDATE 6.00 pm Monday 23rd November 2009.

Being fair to BPP, I have now received an email from Peter Crisp…

Dear Mike

I’m afraid there really is nothing more for me to add to the statement I gave to The Lawyer and I can only repeat what Apollo have said publicly on this matter, namely:

  • Apollo has been informed by the Enforcement Division of the SEC that they have commenced an informal inquiry into the Company’s revenue recognition practices.
  • Apollo does not have any further insight into the scope, duration or outcome of the inquiry at this time.
  • Apollo is fully cooperating with the SEC.
  • ·         Apollo believes that its revenue recognition policies are appropriate and in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

As I said in The Lawyer, BPP remains a UK company subject to UK regulation.

I have in front of me a copy of the QAA Institutional Assessors’ Final Report on BPP: it is headed “Strictly Confidential”. I have no authority therefore to publish it.

Best wishes.

Peter

***

I have written back to Peter Crisp to indicate that I spoke to the QAA months ago and they assert that BPP is at liberty and has the authority to publish the report if they wish to.  My post on Transparency in legal Education makes this clear.

Here is my earlier Transparency in Legal Education post

8 thoughts on “Legal education, BPP and the Freedom of Information Act

  1. Pingback: BPP Law School owners investigated by SEC in US for accounting irregularities « Charon QC

  2. If, as I assume, BPP commissioned & paid for the report as part of the accreditation process then it was they who asked it to be confidential, or at least have the power to disclose it. If that is the position then their assertion is comical:

    “It’s strictly confidential so our hands are tied we can’t reveal it. Oh erm, we labelled is as strictly confidential ourselves.” Bwa ha ha!

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