Private equity firm buys degree-awarding powers

The charitable College of Law, one of only five private providers in the UK with degree-awarding powers, has been sold to a private for-profit firm.

April 17, 2012

The sale of the college – to Montagu Private Equity – is viewed by some in the sector as establishing a model for the potential sale of universities, in whole or part, to for-profit buyers. Like many universities, the College of Law is a charity with a Royal Charter.

The college will sell its legal education and training business, setting up a separate foundation with the proceeds – which will retain the charitable status and the Royal Charter. Montagu will hold the degree awarding powers and run the college as a for-profit entity.

In a press statement, the college said: “The proceeds of the sale will contribute to a significant fund, in excess of £200 million with which the charity – to be renamed the Legal Education Foundation – will further its charitable object to promote the advancement of legal education and the study of law for future generations of students through bursaries, scholarships and grants. The Legal Education Foundation will be one of the largest independent educational charities in the UK.”

David Yates, chairman of the college’s governors, said the institution “was established over 50 years ago as a charitable institution with the specific object of the advancement of legal education…Given the changing education environment, it was appropriate for the governors to undertake a major strategic review of the best way for the charity to meet this objective in the future.

“Montagu’s investment will give the College of Law the freedom and support to continue to build its position as a leading professional legal education institution in the UK and internationally.”

Montagu said it was “supporting the existing management team, led by Nigel Savage, and staff of the college”.

The firm has also appointed Sir Tim Wilson, former vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, as a non-executive director of the newly created board of the college. Sir Tim was author of a recent government-commissioned review of university-business collaboration.

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