Private college to award its own degrees

Regent's College The college was set up 25 years ago

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A private college in London has been given the power to award its own degrees in a move the government says will increase competition in England's higher education system.

Regent's College, in Regent's Park, hopes to get university status soon, which would make it the UK's second fully-fledged private university.

It is one of two private colleges being given degree-awarding powers this week.

They are the first to get the right since the coalition came to power.

The identity of the second college has not yet been made public, with government officials saying it is up to that institution to make its announcement.

Until now, people studying at Regent's College have received degrees through its partnerships with various universities and institutions, including the Open University.

Students study for British and American degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Most pay fees of about £14,000 a year.

Regent's College is a registered charity, with profits being ploughed back in to the college.

Its principal, Professor Aldwyn Cooper, said: "Regent's has been providing a rich learning experience for 25 years. Our breadth of study is rooted in the liberal arts tradition.

"The next step is to apply for university title to reflect properly the kind of institution that Regent's has become and to better enable us to fulfil our driving charitable mission to serve education".

Private universities do not receive public funding, but have degree-awarding powers.

From September, students attending them will be eligible for state-funded student loans of £6,000 to cover tuition fees if they are on approved courses.

'Greater competition'

Universities Minister David Willetts said: "The government is keen to encourage greater competition and choice in higher education provision in order to better respond to student demand.

"I am therefore pleased that another alternative provider, Regent's College, has met the rigorous standards required of institutions who apply for the power to award degrees."

Representing academics, the University College Union (UCU) says it is not against Regent's College being awarded the power to grant degrees, but fears other, profit-making institutions, will be given the right too.

A spokesman said: "The critical difference between Regent's College and others applying for degree-awarding powers is that it is not-for-profit, so is not geared to making profits for shareholders.

"The government wants to diversify the market and bring in new providers but this is driven by the desire to create a for-profit sector.

"As we've seen from the US example, this could mean the emergence of fast-growing businesses chasing a quick buck and that could damage our education system."

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