A private college offering courses in chiropractic, a form of alternative medicine, has been granted UK degree awarding powers, often a step towards becoming a university.
The Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (AECC), based in Bournemouth, was granted the status by the Privy Council after undergoing scrutiny by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the standard process in degree powers applications.
The QAA scrutiny team’s report on the degree powers application describes the institution as “a well-respected and major provider of chiropractic and musculoskeletal healthcare higher education”.
According to the NHS Choices website, chiropractors “use their hands to treat disorders of the bones, muscles and joints”, with “an emphasis on manipulation of the spine”.
The website adds: “Some uses of chiropractic treatments are based on ideas and an ‘evidence base’ not recognised by the majority of independent scientists.”
AECC, says the QAA report, “is a private company limited by guarantee and a not-for-profit, charitable institution”. The institution had 674 registered students in 2014-15. The institution has been an associate college of Bournemouth University since 2005. Up until this point, it has awarded Bournemouth degrees.
The QAA says that in 2014-15 “the college set a deficit budget which it was well able to finance from its strong balance sheet, and introduced corrective action to enhance its revenues so that a return to surplus is anticipated in the 2015-16 budget”.
A sub-panel of the QAA’s Advisory Committee on Degree Awarding Powers visited the college to “explore further” areas including the college’s financial position, says the report.
This visit by the sub-panel was the cause of a delay between the writing of the scrutiny report, dated November 2015, and the QAA’s announcement of the award of degree awarding powers last week, a QAA spokeswoman said.
The QAA’s report says that overall the scrutiny team “is confident that the planned regulations, policies and procedures under development in anticipation of achieving taught degree awarding powers are well considered and will ensure the security of academic standards”.
Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, says on his blog – aimed at weighing up objective evidence on alternative medicine – that the AECC was the only alternative medicine educational institution to take him up on an offer he made to give lectures to students.
In a January 2015 post, he says of the lecture: “My own impression of the day is that some of my messages were not really understood, that some of the questions, including some from the tutors, seemed like coming from a different planet, and that people were more out to teach me than to learn from my talk.”
Professor Ernst adds: “The question I always ask myself after having invested a lot of time in preparing and delivering a lecture is: WAS IT WORTH IT? In the case of this lecture, I think the answer is YES.
“With 300 students present, I am fairly confident that I did manage to stimulate a tiny bit of critical thinking in a tiny percentage of them. The chiropractic profession needs this badly!”
Since 2010, Conservative ministers have pursued a policy to encourage private provision of higher education.
In December 2015, the British School of Osteopathy was granted degree awarding powers.