University of Law sold to Global University Systems

The government says it will help ensure that there is “minimal to disruption to students” at the University of Law and that “its high quality of education is upheld” following the purchase

June 2, 2015

Global University Systems, an umbrella group that includes the London School of Business and Finance and St Patrick’s College, has completed the purchase from Montagu Private Equity for an undisclosed sum.

David Blunkett, the former Labour education secretary who is a visiting lecturer at LSBF, will chair the board of the University of Law.

The sale is billed by GUS as paving the way to create “one of the most comprehensive private universities in Europe”, at what is presently an exclusively law-focused institution.

It comes less than three years after Montagu bought the formerly charitable College of Law for about £200 million, creating what was the UK’s first for-profit university.

As Times Higher Education reported at the time, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills rushed through the award of university title to the College of Law to meet a deadline in the sale to Montagu.

BIS issued guidance in 2012 stating: “When the ownership or control of a university or university college changes, it must inform BIS of the intended sale or change and, within three months of conclusion of the sale or change, provide evidence that it continues to satisfy the criteria for student numbers and good governance as set out in this guidance.”

It is understood that this guidance remains in place.

A BIS spokesman said: “The department has been notified of the purchase of the University of Law. We are working with the institution and Global University Systems to ensure that there is minimal disruption to students throughout this transition and that its high quality of education is upheld.”

A statement from GUS said that there will now be a “strategic options review” of all its “UK regulated businesses”.

This will include looking at “whether existing GUS UK entities can benefit from ULaw's proven approach to quality assurance, enhancement and the attainment of the highest standards of regulatory compliance”.

Aaron Etingen, founder and chief executive officer of GUS, said: “The options review exercise will deliver us a blueprint for one of the most comprehensive private universities in Europe.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Private equity firms will continue to circle UK higher education and we need clear commitments to protect our universities and ensure that their assets and investments are used to further education, not increase the wealth of shareholders.”

Both the LSBF and St Patrick's have been among private providers who have been under scrutiny in recent years for their growing use of the state-backed student loans system.

In a report earlier this year, the Quality Assurance Agency upheld two out of six concerns raised about St Patrick’s. However, BIS lifted its suspension of Student Loans Company fee payments at the college following publication of the report, and the completion of its own investigation.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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