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Blow for private universities as BPP records considerable losses

18 November 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

The for-profit private provider of higher education in the UK, BPP, has had more than a quarter of its purchase value written off by its US parent company, following lower than expected enrolment figures.

End-of-year results filed by Apollo Group recorded an $175.858m (£106m) 'impairment charge' to reflect these poorer results. UCU said the news was a blow for privateers in the UK and those who believed the for-profit university was the future.
The government has said it is keen to allow more private for-profit providers, but UCU said the fact that David Willetts' great hope to privatise higher education is already financially struggling should act as a warning to government that privatisation is not the answer to UK higher education problems. The union also said the government should rethink plans to allow private providers access to public money and said taxpayers' money should not be used to shore up failing private enterprises.
UCU has continually warned that private companies have no tradition of academic freedom, are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation, and are not subjected to the same academic rigour or public scrutiny as UK universities. A poll of professors in July revealed that an overwhelmingly majority (96%) do not believe it should be easier for private companies to call themselves universities.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'On an academic level, we do not believe the profiteers have the same intrinsic values that our universities have - perhaps that is not too surprising when your main motive is profit. We also do not believe that they should have access to taxpayers' money to shore up their failing enterprises. This news should come as a timely warning, or perhaps reminder, that privatisation is not the answer to our problems.'