As part of a campaign to tighten regulation on alternative providers to create a “level playing field” with universities, Labour says it wants to ensure students at private colleges are able to access the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.
To achieve this, Labour peers will put forward amendments to the Consumer Rights Bill when it comes before the House of Lords in the autumn.
The move aims to correct an anomaly whereby public universities are required to sign up to the OIA under the Higher Education Act 2004, but private colleges are not subject to the same rules.
The National Union of Students and the OIA’s chief executive Rob Behrens have repeatedly called for changes to ensure students at private colleges receive the same protection as those at public universities via this recourse to the independent ombudsman.
“It’s time to create a level playing field for universities – starting with equal rights for students in the public and private system,” said shadow universities minister Liam Byrne, who has proposed the changes.
Mr Byrne said tougher regulation was needed because the amount of publicly funded loans going to students at private colleges had soared in recent year and was set to hit almost £1 billion in the coming year.
“Today we’re signalling that the free market free-for-all has gone too far,” said Mr Byrne.
He also condemned the government’s decision to “deliberately set out to create a dog-eat-dog university system in Britain backed with spiralling debts, much of which will never be paid”.
The announcement coincided with the first major higher education speech by Greg Clark since he took over as the minister for universities, science and cities in July.