When owners change, keep check on powers (2 of 2)

April 26, 2012

Amid all the media coverage of the "sale" of the College of Law, it is worth trying to pin down the issue of degree-awarding powers as the prime concern of the purchaser.

The College of Law as a charitable chartered corporation "sells" these powers, its staff, its students and its reputation/goodwill; the money raised by the sale of such charitable assets has to be redeployed into a newly registered grant-making charity and will be used to fund bursaries and scholarships. Meanwhile, the private equity purchaser will utilise the brand name "College of Law" and crack on as a money-making business (probably one day selling the brand to another for-profit provider so that investors can get a return).

There is nothing worth buying without degree-awarding powers, and doubtless the posh law firms involved will have done all due diligence to ensure that they can indeed change hands. Such powers can be awarded only by the Privy Council as guided by the Quality Assurance Agency and the government; for "real" higher education institutions they are permanent, but for the likes of the College of Law, initially they last for six years.

Either the Privy Council has already agreed to the transfer or the sale is conditional on such permission; or perhaps the view is that the transfer of limited powers, with a rigorous review already built in, can proceed without great formality. In contrast, the sale of a "full" university, possessing perpetual powers, might (should?) trigger a careful vetting of the proposed purchaser and its ability to maintain standards (as well as, say, its attitude to academic freedom, an issue perhaps of less concern in teach-for-the-test training, the College of Law's core product).

Naturally, all this is covered in the 800-plus fun-packed pages of our 2012 edition of The Law of Higher Education.

Dennis Farrington and David Palfreyman, Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, New College, Oxford

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald