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Union warns of risks to standards as Pearson seeks to launch degrees

14 December 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

Government must heed America warnings, warns UCU

UCU said today that encouraging the growth of for-profit companies in higher education risked damaging the UK's international reputation and would invite serious questions about standards.
 
Responding to the news that education publisher Pearson is looking to launch new degree courses, hot on the heels of the decision to treble tuition fees, UCU 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.
 
UCU has written to the universities minister, David Willetts, urging him to learn from the lessons of America. The US government is currently discussing how to better regulate the for-profit sector following a series of high-profile public scandals involving companies like Kaplan and Apollo, which owns BPP University College, alleging malpractice in recruiting and the sale of poor products to students.
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Today's announcement is bad news for education. Further encouraging the growth of for-profit companies risks damaging the UK's academic reputation and will raise serious questions about standards. These companies are clearly seeing an opportunity for growth following the disastrous decision to treble tuition fees and the government's warm words about private education providers.
 
'We believe that the pursuit of profit is incompatible with the maintenance of high standards in education. We would urge the government to take a proper look at what is happening in America, where Congress it looking to better regulate the for-profit sector following a series of high-profile scandals. If the government allows for-profit companies to move even further into our higher education system, we are concerned that our students will be the ones to suffer.'

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