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Government unveils new rules for private universities

11 June 2012

UCU today welcomed the announcement that the government is to limit the number of students private university providers can recruit and also review the quality of courses offered by for-profit education companies.

Today's news comes less than month after UCU wrote to the government calling for a change to the existing regulation after it emerged that ministers were not keeping tabs on student completion rates and course standards at private institutions, despite handing over ever larger chunks of taxpayers' money -  see: Government admits it has no idea on private universities' course completion rates

The union said that while it was happy that ministers were closing the current loophole on student places, which allowed unlimited recruitment for private providers, it was essential that any new quota did not take away more places from existing universities.

UCU added that in the absence of a new bill it was deeply concerned that the proposals would not be subject to parliamentary debate and scrutiny.

The union said because of the greater risks associated with for-profit providers, as shown by the ongoing scandals in the US, it was essential that any new regulation was more stringent than the current rules governing public institutions.

In the States, for-profit companies offer derisory graduation rates, crushing levels of debts and degrees of dubious value. According to the US Education Trust, only 20 per cent of students at for-profit colleges complete a four-year course and a fifth of those who do finish default on their loans within three years.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'I'm glad that the government has finally agreed with our call to limit the number of students private providers can recruit and bring them under proper regulation. However, it is essential that any new quota does not take away students from existing institutions and that these proposals are debated properly in parliament. Ministers appear to be running away from a public debate because they know for-profit universities are unpopular.

'It is UCU's view is that for-profit companies pose massive risks to staff, students and taxpayers. That's why it's essential that ministers learn from the high-profile scandals in the US and ensure these companies are subject to more stringent regulation than public universities.'
Last updated: 11 December 2015