With the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) having just last month thrown down some spiky if not unexpected challenges to education providers, yesterday’s (8 August) news that BPP has been awarded university status was a welcome boost.
The decision by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) to award the university title to BPP – which provides undergraduate and graduate business degrees across the law finance and tax space and is the sole provider of the Legal Practice Course to many of the top City firms – will elevate its standing globally, Dean and Chief Executive Peter Crisp told Legal Business: ‘Firstly, it’s the recognition, the reputation and the standing it gives us worldwide, so obviously in terms of our appeal to students both in this country and internationally. It puts us on a par with other universities who also recruit onto the LLB and the vocational legal training practice.
‘It’s incredibly important. Also, it reflects the confidence the government has and indeed the Privy Council has in the soundness of our teaching which is our management, governance, etc. – that’s down to quality,’ Crisp added.
BPP is the exclusive LPC provider to 30 firms including the Magic Circle’s Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May; international firms Hogan Lovells, Herbert Smith Freehills and Jones Day; and City firms Macfarlanes, Travers Smith, and Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.
It becomes the first for-profit provider to successfully undertake a full Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education review (QAA) and satisfy all requirements, and Crisp points to the ‘rigorous review’ the school undertook with the QAA. With the help of Eversheds, it produced evidence about its governance structure, while PricewaterhouseCoopers produced further evidence on the educator’s financials before a final decision was made by the government.
Eversheds partner Glynne Stanfield said: ‘It is very pleasing to see that a client we’ve advised for many years has now evolved into a fully-fledged university; it is well deserved. It is gratifying to see them come through the thorough examination that obtaining university title now involves with flying colours.’ BPP’s rival, the University of Law, formerly the College of Law, was granted university status last November.
This latest development comes as providers and professional bodies alike continue to face deep challenges over how to make training fit for purpose as the shape of the legal profession changes, set against a backdrop of falling numbers of training contracts and growing levels of unemployment.
Professor Carl Lygo, chief executive of parent company BPP Holdings, points out that the school’s graduates were ‘exceptionally employable with some 96% employed or in further study’ within six months of leaving the school. Earlier this year BPP took the unusual step of promising free training to its LPC graduates who don’t obtain a job in law within six months.
However, BPP is also a champion of the apprenticeship route recommended by LETR as a means to provide a vocational, not just academic, route to the profession and Crisp confirmed that the university will work closely with employers to ‘get that off the ground.’
Nothing is likely to happen on this front until next year and Crisp added: ‘We have to see what the professional bodies do in response to LETR. They have to consider how they want to respond to the recommendations.’