QAA highlights private failures following Cable comments

Watchdog responds after business secretary’s ‘dross’ remark

October 8, 2014

 

The Quality Assurance Agency has highlighted how many private colleges have not passed its checks after business secretary Vince Cable questioned standards at some providers.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Glasgow on 7 October, Mr Cable said he had concerns about the value of the “cheap and cheerful courses” that had received public funding since 2012.

While many of the private providers that gained access to tuition fee loans were “very good, outstanding, innovation institutions”, there was “a lot of dross” that had received public funds, he said.

In response to Mr Cable’s comments, Stephen Jackson, director of quality assurance at the QAA, pointed to a number of private colleges that had not passed the QAA’s review – a check that is required if institutions want to recruit overseas students or receive public funding.

“Since beginning this work, 78 private colleges that initially applied for QAA review were rejected or withdrew,” said Dr Jackson.

“Forty-six of the private colleges that did make it to review failed to achieve positive judgements on standards, quality or information,” he added.

But Dr Jackson also said that he wanted to “echo the secretary of state’s views in that we have found many private colleges to be delivering a quality higher education experience”.

The total bill for public-backed student support at private providers is projected to soar to nearly £1 billion this year, according to government figures, after the coalition encouraged private colleges to play a greater role in the provision of higher education.

However, the business secretary said the benefits from increased private provision were “ambiguous”.

Mr Cable told the meeting, which was co-hosted by the Social Market Foundation thinktank and the Sutton Trust, that “the aspect of [the expansion of student numbers] that worries me…is that what we have done is opened the door to private sector alternative providers, including for-profit companies”.

Asked why he had allowed his powers to grant for-profit colleges that were in his own words “dross” access to public funding, Mr Cable replied: “I brought in fairly draconian controls about a year ago when we discovered that there was abuse in the sector.

“The reason why we can’t just say ‘this is a nuisance and it costs money, let’s close the whole lot down’ – there is a legal reason and there are legitimate institutions. As the law stands at present, their students can gain access to student grants and loans.”

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Microlight pilot flies with flock of cranes

Reports of UK-based researchers already thinking of moving overseas after Brexit vote

Portrait montage of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage

From Donald Trump to Brexit, John Morgan considers the challenges of a new international political climate