So what’s my connection? Well, a couple of years ago BPP was purchased by the Apollo Global group, the main operator of for-profit higher education in the US, including the massive University of Phoenix. BPP is the UK law school I just completed my Graduate Degree in Law at.
The acquisition as 4/5th funded by Apollo, whilst the Carlyle Group (well known to Michael Moore and his unwashed ilk for its huge presence in the US war machine and its ties to both the Bush and Bin Laden families and the UK Conservative party) stumped up $200m for the ongoing joint venture.
Since then, BPP has been aggressively expanding, and I have been part of that effort: as a Brand Manager, I’ve assisted on open days, fairs and even a marketing video. The UK Bar Standards Body, the non-governmental body which regulates education to become a UK barrister (read: attorney) had their guts for garters over a disgraceful ‘administrative error’ that led to massive oversubscription on the course, swelling class sizes and seeing people turned away at short notice before the start date of the course they’d previously been accepted to.
BPP is adding centres around the country, and increasingly shifting to online, long-distance courses. Leverage. It’s also running a very strong upselling campaign to get people in my position to ‘upgrade’ our GDL into LLB (i.e. Bachelor of Law) degrees – getting the accreditation to do so was one of the very first moves it made after Apollo took the reins.
And in very recent news, BPP also announced that it is abandoning its bases as a professional educational college, and taking the title ‘University’ – the first private university in thirty years, and fully in keeping with Apollo’s US track record.
Yet it’s worth pointing out that the tutoring and teaching I got last year was mostly really very good. I was lucky to be in a class of very bright people and mostly quite good tutors. So my concerns aren’t derived from personal experience; they came from an HR person I got talking to that was attending a BPP event I was working at. She was from a very decent City law firm.
BPP, she said, has become less selective in who it allows onto the course. People with 2:2 (i.e. third-rate) degrees from universities are now given places when before a 2:1 or better was required. Her complaint is that this has made her job harder; no longer a badge worth trusting, she has to look deeper into CVs to see if they have to be binned at first sweep through the thousands of applications they receive. Worse, the HR personnel now have to field calls from emotional mothers asking why their child is being turned down for City jobs despite the family having shelled out/indebted itself in order to pay for the most expensive GDL course on the UK market. In truth, a third-rate university degree is going to be a straight-up rejection and the HR personnel view BPP’s new practice as at best immoral, at worst, downright deceptive.
So that’s my connection. I realise that sharing it in this tripartite piece is labelling myself a profiteering hypocrite whilst simultaneously shooting myself in the foot by potentially devaluing the value of a keystone of my CV; and may perhaps come to be seen as a snobbish and irrational act from an Oxford graduate irritated at seeing the value of his further education cheapened as his degree is made more accessible to ‘the high street’. Even if this comes to be seen as a good thing, it’s an enduring truth that good things are not necessarily good ideas.
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