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Academy warns government to drop plans for private universities

26 July 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU today (Monday) warned the government that encouraging the growth of private universities would damage the UK's international reputation and invite serious questions about standards.

Responding to the news that private provider BPP will become the first new private sector university college for more than 30 years, the union said the move would be deeply unpopular with the academic community. UCU pointed to a poll of 500 professors released today that shows an overwhelmingly majority (96%) do not believe it should be easier for private companies to call themselves universities.
The union said the poll should act as a warning to universities minister, David Willetts, as he considers proposals that could lead to sweeping changes to universities and degrees. The union warned that private companies have no tradition of academic freedom and are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation. Furthermore, said UCU, private companies are not subjected to the same academic rigour or public scrutiny as UK universities.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "Today's news could mark the beginning of a slippery slope for academic provision in this country. Encouraging the growth of private providers and making it easier for them to call themselves universities would be a disaster for the UK's academic reputation. It would also represent a huge threat to academic freedom and standards.
"It is essential that David Willetts listens to our finest minds instead of being wooed by a private sector more interested in profit than probity. Private providers are not accountable to the public and do not deserve to be put in the same league as our universities."
In September the union produced a report outlining its concerns over the expansion of private providers in UK higher education. A copy of Privatising our Universities can be found here.
Note to editors

In an online poll, between 1 and 2 July 2010, 504 professors were asked:
Do you agree that it should be easier for private companies to call themselves universities?
2.6% said YES | 96.2% said NO | 1.2% said DON'T KNOW