UK universities hit by Brussels directive on PPP schemes

October 19, 2001

Public-private partnership schemes are to be made illegal as part of a European Union directive.

Universities and colleges negotiating with private companies to start construction work will have to make sure that the agreements are completed before the directive enters the statute books in 2003.

The Association of Colleges has invited principals, chief education officers, construction company chiefs and lawyers to a conference on the issue on November 7.

The Brussels directive is designed to foil corruption in parts of Europe where public-private schemes are put out to tender. In the UK, schemes are negotiated between an institution and the private company, so the same issue of corruption does not arise. The Euro-directive would nevertheless make such schemes illegal.

A £4.4 million accommodation block for 200 students at the University of Surrey opened five months ago under a PPP venture between the university and the Pavilion Housing Association, a not-for-profit company. Pavilion has partnered the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Farnham, Nescot in Epsom and Farnborough College of Technology.

Kingston College has signed a £40 million deal with Mount Anvil, a privately owned company that will build 56 study-bedrooms, 85 private residential apartments and other educational facilities. Construction is due to begin this month and be completed in 2003.

Arthur Cottrell, Kingston College principal, said: "This long-winded bureaucratic Brussels directive has serious implications for educational institutions given Tony Blair's strong belief in private finances underwriting the public sector."

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