Private colleges suspended from student loan access

The government has suspended 23 private colleges from the publicly-funded loans system after a surge in their student numbers.

November 29, 2013

David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said last week that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills had written to the 23 colleges telling them not to recruit any more students on Higher National Certificates (HNCs) or Higher National Diplomas (HNDs).

It has now emerged that BIS has suspended the “designation” status of HNC and HND courses at those colleges for the rest of 2013-14. Designation is the process by which BIS makes students at private providers eligible to receive Student Loans Company funding.

The move comes after an £80 million overspend by BIS on students at private providers, a factor in wider budget problems likely to mean cuts for publicly-funded universities.

Times Higher Education reported this week about the benefits gained by education firm Pearson from the surge in students studying HNCs and HNDs, for which the FTSE 100 company is an awarding body.

The identities of the 23 suspended colleges were noted by the higher education writer Andrew McGettigan on his blog, and the list has been published by the SLC.

One hundred HND and HNC courses were being offered by London College UCK, one of the suspended colleges.

Last year, THE revealed that London College UCK had 98 HNDs and HNCs approved for public-backed student funding on one day, just four days after the college submitted the paperwork.

London School of Business and Finance, which formerly had a partnership with London Metropolitan University, is also among the suspended colleges.

The other colleges to be suspended are: AA Hamilton College, Brit College Limited, Fairfield Academy, Grafton College, Icon College of Technology and Management, London Bridge Business Academy, London Churchill College Ltd, London School of Business and Management, London School of Science & Technology, Mont Rose College of Management and Sciences, Nelson College London Ltd, OLC (Europe) Ltd incorporating EETTEC Ltd, RTC Education Ltd trading as Regent College, St Patrick’s International College, Stratford College London, West London College of Business and Management Sciences, British Institute of Technology & E-Commerce Ltd, East End Computing and Business College, Centre for Advance Studies Ltd (trading as City of London college), EThames Graduate School Limited.

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, urged the government to end all public subsidies to for-profit private colleges. He said it was “unacceptable” that poorer students may have grant funding cut as a result of the BIS overspend on private providers.

The University and College Union urged MPs on the Public Accounts Committee to investigate taxpayer funding for private providers.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “We specifically warned David Willetts about the dangers of opening up more state-backed loans to private colleges to cover their students’ fees. There were no quality control checks in place and no limits on the number of students they could recruit. What did they think would happen?”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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