V-cs and unions air fears over sponsored schools

December 9, 2005

Lecturers' unions and vice-chancellors warned against universities sponsoring new city academies as it emerged that four institutions are in talks with the Government about sponsoring schools, writes Paul Hill.

University College London, Sunderland, Nottingham Trent and Nottingham universities are reported to be negotiating with the Department for Education and Skills about sponsoring city academies. Liverpool and Brunel universities plan to sponsor academies with commercial partners, and the University of the West of England (with a football club) sponsors a city academy in Bristol.

But doubts emerged this week about whether universities had the funds to sponsor academies and whether a close relationship with one school was compatible with a fair admissions system.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "That some of them are considering throwing cash at the unproven academies programme adds credibility to our sad conclusion that the promise of extra cash was merely a ruse by greedy vice-chancellors to grab the top-up fee cash pot."

Sponsors of city academies put up £2 million in return for government investment of up to £25 million. Michael Sterling, chairman of the Russell Group, said: "We're anxious to get the best students... but I can't see that we could justify spending significant sums on secondary education."

Michael Driscoll, chairman of Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, said institutions often had close relations with several local schools and that to sponsor one would be "invidious".

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