Continuity error

May 3, 2012

The College of Law deal marks the second sale of a UK higher education entity with temporary degree-awarding powers to an overseas owner ("College of Law sale sets legal precedent for raising of funds", 26 April). The first was US giant Apollo Group's purchase of BPP Holdings in 2009. Since then, BPP University College seems to have run its courses under its own steam pretty much as before. When its degree-awarding powers come up for renewal next year, a view will be taken on the basis of the Quality Assurance Agency's institutional audit. Its recommendations, if any, will feed into the Privy Council's considerations.

The College of Law announcement involves a quite different structural reconfiguration: Montagu Private Equity's role will be far more hands-on. This seems to raise fundamental questions about the continuity of provision the college will be able to make, provision that gained QAA approval last year. Perhaps the watchdog may wish to seek assurances about that and perform another audit if it cannot be confident that the new owners understand how important such continuity is. One can but hope that the Privy Council will hold off on renewing its degree-awarding powers, due by 31 August, until that assurance is secure. But the enthusiastic welcome given to Montagu's involvement by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, casts doubt on that.

The government's rules should be amended to include provision for requirements in the event of change of ownership. It is worrying that Privy Council renewal is due just when Montagu moves in, as no one can know how well it will maintain standards.

G.R. Evans, Cambridge

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