Law Review: BPP University College debated on THES Online!

My attention was drawn to a debate on The Times Higher Education Supplement website this morning about the new University status conferred on BPP

Comments on this on the THES website before I engaged are here, with the original story

I decided to put a number of points.  This is the exchange so far…..

Charon QC 27 July, 2010

Carl Lygo

Hi Carl

Let me deal with a number of points:

1. Freedom of Information Act

You state…”What you fail to mention above is that those bodies that inspect BPP are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and so the reports in relation to BPP are available. The QAA reports about BPP College are on the front page of our website, so you could not get much more public than that. Students are entitled to information through the Data Protection Act etc. We have an independent chair of our council, with independent members (who have a majority vote), with external examiners from Uk HEI’s, independent representatives on programme approval panels etc. So BPP has in place a lot of external scrutiny.”

It took me a great deal of time and prodding of your colleague Peter Crisp, CEO, of BPP Law School to get access to the QAA report. I had a range of excuses, including ‘The QAA report is a confidential document’ for his not being able to provide this – despite the QAA saying to me in writing that BPP was at liberty to publish if they chose to do so.

I wrote about this several times:
Below is a link to one of these pieces, from which it is possible to track back

http://charonqc.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/legal-education-and-the-freedom-of-information-act/

For you to now trumpet that you publish the QAA report on the front of your website – when it took many months for you to do so is at best ironic at worst disingenuous.

The College of Law – for the record, published the QAA report into degree awarding powers immediately I asked for access to same.

They, too, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

BPP is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. I believe that both BPP and the College of Law should be subject to FOI

2. The Bar Vocational Course

It is well reported in the legal press that BPP was investigated by the Bar Standards Board for over subscribing on the Bar Vocational Course.

For the benefit of readers who do not follow legal education in detail – here is a short post I wrote covering this:

http://charonqc.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/the-bar-standards-board-report-on-bpp-law-school-oversubscription-on-the-bvc/

I understand that BPP law School is subject to what may be called ‘special measures’ or supervision for the next two years

This is Condition 1 from the Bar Standards Board report – please correct me if I have quoted inaccurately:

“Prior to making any offer for the courses commencing in Sept 2010, BPP must engage the services of an independent statistician or similar expert, (name and CV to be approved by the BSB) to review all available admissions data for the previous 5 years and clarify that in his/her professional opinion the number of offers that BPP wishes to make should not lead to over-recruitment. This certification is to be provided to the BSB before any offers are made, and thereafter the number of offers made by BPP shall not exceed the certified number. This procedure is to be repeated for the courses commencing in September 2011 and September 2012.”

I am delighted that BPP has got degree powers and university status – but it is right that your new university college should be subject to scrutiny.

Hopefully the Freedom of Information Act will apply – although peter crisp, CEO of the Law School in two podcasts he did with me – in the public domain – indicated that he would be quite happy for BPP Law School to provide the same information required of public sector institutions.

  • David 27 July, 2010 overfilling courses – an omen….While BPP has undoubtedly done a lot of good in professional training, the query from Peter above (Do BPP have to control student numbers as other institutions have to else find themselves under penalty) is interesting.There are controls of student numbers for all organisations, but BPP has already been pulled up for overfilling courses. The Bar Standards Board limits students on the bar training course for example, and BPP faced an enquiry and is only accredited to run the course in future on condition that they comply with the BSB conditions and recommendations.It remains to be seen if this new status will make them more or less responsible.
  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 For the record… while I write ‘pseudonymously’ as Charon QC on my Charon QC blog – I am not anonymous.My name is Mike Semple Piggot. I have been in legal education for 30+ years – and, ironically, founded BPP Law School with Charlie Prior, then CEO of BPP Holdings plc, in the good old days of 1990.
  • I am not connected in any way with BPP or any other organisation – and I am delighted that BPP has got this status – but, equally, I think it only right that the College should be scrutinised, scrutiny which students and employers who pay the fees are entitled to expect?
  • Carl Lygo 27 July, 2010 If you look at the front page of our website under the text “Approval by the Privy Council” you will get the report I said was on the front page of our website. http://www.bppuc.com/BPP was founded by 3 Accountants, Brierly, Price and Prior hence the origination of the name.You can’t have it both ways – we have the BSB report in to BPP’s over recruitment on the BVC made public and yet you say we are not open to scrutiny.As I said before reports from QAA, BSB, SRA etc are all available to be inspected either from our website (in relation to the ACDAP/QAA report) or from the regulators website.

    I suspect we will be blamed for the dull summer weather next!

    Carl Lygo, Principal of BPP University College

  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 Carl – I can’t find anything on your website about BPP being responsible for the recent spell of dull weather.I am quite happy to go back over the many months of correspondence I had with Peter Crisp to determine exactly how long it took BPP Law School to publish the QAA report.Final question: Do you feel that BPP University College should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act so that you are – to use a phrase BPP used when applying for degree awarding powers – on a fair and level playing field with the traditional public sector universities?

    A supplementary: Will you be asking David Willetts MP to put this in hand?

  • Charon QC 27 July, 2010 Carl: One last thought? : RESEARCHWould you agree with the proposition that a ‘University’ is traditionally regarded as engaging in both teaching and significant public research for the common good?

    If so – what plans has BPP University College got to engage in significant research in Law, health care, teaching et al (anfd any other degrees you decide to teach)?

    If you do not plan to engage in serious research to current public university standards would it be fair or unfair to say that the title ‘University’ is rather meaningless and is just a bit of puffery demeaning to the established sector?

  • 3 thoughts on “Law Review: BPP University College debated on THES Online!

    1. SW… BPP was founded by Alan Brierly, Richard Price and Charles Prior in 1976 (as far as I recall) The initial company did accountancy. They still do. They are market leaders in that field with 30,000 students!

      I met Richard and Charlie in 1987. We set up a continuing education company. When my restraint of trade period expired we set up the law school – initially with overseas students doing the old style bar course and developed from there to GDL, LPC and BVC.

      We broke the monopoly on only public sector institutions doing validated courses.

      BPP invested a great deal of care and money into the development of first class resources. I enjoyed my time with BPP Law School – I knew Charlie Prior rather better than Richard, simply because Charlie as CEO of BPP Holdings PLC was more involved on the education aide. Richard tended to be more involved then on the publishing side of BPP’s ventures in Accountancy etc.

      Good people to work with – a pleasure. I am not an administrator, nor would ever wish to be – and once BPP got the validations for the LPC and BVC it was time for me to go .

    2. charon – 2 points (or 3 if you’re an accountant):

      1) i was being bad and stirring – apologies

      2) you’re right that you have pointed out exactly what was and wasn’t your involvement loads of times. it has washed over me until now. i think because i trained only at the law school, i think of it only as a law school. which is of course nonsense. (not the first time i have spouted nonsense but there ya go). i will try to remember in future! doubt i’ll succeed…

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