College of Law sale enters crucial stage

The potential takeover of a private higher education college with degree-awarding powers has entered a crucial stage, with education giant Pearson reportedly the front-runner to secure the deal.

February 6, 2012

According to EducationInvestor magazine, the College of Law has entered “exclusive negotiations” with a preferred bidder for the not-for-profit charity, with Pearson, the large for-profit owner of examination board Edexcel, believed to be the most likely candidate.

A number of companies have been linked with the plan to buy the college, including several private equity firms and Laureate, a corporation already running universities around the world.

However, Pearson – which recently boosted its funds for potential takeovers by selling its 50 per cent stake in FTSE International for £450 million – is known to be keen to acquire degree-awarding powers.

It has been quoted by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, as an example of a non-teaching organisation that could benefit from government reforms – now likely to be delayed – to relax the rules governing which bodies can award degrees.

Pearson also has experience of the legal complications of buying a charity (the cash proceeds of which must be invested in charitable purposes) after it took over Edexcel several years ago.

Hawkpoint, a corporate finance advisory firm that specialises in mergers and acquisitions, is said to be advising on the potential college sale, which was kick-started following a strategic review announced in September 2011.

Times Higher Education reported in December that Hawkpoint had organised a dinner in May 2011 attended by Mr Willetts, the College of Law and some of the firms that have been involved in the bidding process, including Pearson.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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