Go the distance

Expanding online provision is a priority for Carl Lygo, the new CEO of the private education provider BPP Holdings

October 1, 2009

Carl Lygo, the chairman of BPP Law School, has taken the reins of the largest private provider of education in the UK.

The qualified barrister, who has 18 years' experience in the education sector, has been appointed chief executive of BPP Holdings. The move follows BPP's merger with the US education giant Apollo Global in July.

Mr Lygo has been at BPP for 12 years, during which time the school has expanded to become a business with a £50 million turnover.

"I've been bowled over by the support I've had from staff - they're so pleased that a member of faculty has been appointed to the top job," Mr Lygo said, predicting that Apollo would "revolutionise" the private higher education sector in the UK.

"We offer a new teaching-led model, which is a blend of online provision and face-to-face learning. We'll be rolling that out across the UK," he said.

The biggest institution in Apollo's portfolio is the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit higher education institution in the US. It offers vocational courses online and via evening classes, taught by "practitioner faculty".

BPP currently has 28 centres in the UK and 17 overseas.

Precise targets for its distance-learning expansion have yet to be agreed, but Mr Lygo said he was expecting to add "a significant number of students" through the online offering. "In the UK in the traditional market we're competing with Kaplan and the College of Law, online we're competing with The Open University," he said.

While UK universities are expanding their online offerings, US ones are "well ahead in their thinking", he added.

When the Apollo merger was first mooted in May, David Willetts, the Conservative Shadow Universities Secretary, said it could mark "a very significant change for British higher education". But Mr Lygo played down the likelihood of an influx of foreign private education providers into the UK in Apollo's wake.

"The impression I'm getting is that there are others knocking at the door, but the Quality Assurance Agency and the tough process for gaining UK degree-awarding powers are keeping out low-quality entrants."

Asked if he thought a Conservative government would make it easier for new private entrants, Mr Lygo said: "They're certainly looking for different models that don't require government investment in bricks and mortar - they will be interested in online models of education."

Mr Lygo will continue in his role as principal of BPP College, comprising both BPP Law School and BPP Business School, alongside the chief executive post.


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