‘Alternative’ providers

iStock_000005459157_ExtraSmall‘Alternative providers’ are defined as providers of higher education in England which are not publicly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

They may seek to have their courses designated for Student Loan Company purposes. For such courses a maximum tuition-fee loan is set at £6,000.

‘Degree-awarding powers’ and ‘University title’

Providers of higher education may apply for ‘degree-awarding powers’ through a process overseen by the Quality Assurance Agency.  In the case of alternative providers these powers are granted for six years and are renewable on a satisfactory institutional audit by the QAA. The grant is made by the Privy Council on the advice of the QAA.

‘University title’, which is permanent, may be gained by two routes. One requires the consent of the Privy Council on the advice of the QAA.  The other, open only to registered companies, involves application to Companies House, which considers whether the use of the ‘sensitive word’ university is appropriate.


The University of Law

The University of Law was granted ‘university title’  in 2012,  and ceased to be a charity and became a for-profit provider when it was taken over by Montagu Private Equity.

Regent’s University

Regent’s University, a not-for-profit enterprise, gained degree-awarding powers in 2012 and  ‘university title’ in June 2013.

BPP University

BPP is a ‘private provider’ of higher education which gained temporary degree-awarding powers in 2007 and ‘university title’ in 2013.  It describes itself in this way:

BPP University is a separate legal entity and division within the wider BPP Professional Education group. BPP University has its own separate governance and regulatory structure reflecting the national importance of BPP University as a degree awarding body approved by the UK’s Privy Council.

It offers ‘student advice’ but no complaints procedure for students on its website.

‘The ten little newbies’

A number of small higher education providers were granted ‘university title’ as part of the post-2011 ‘reforms’, when the number of students required to be a ‘university’ was reduced.


Course designation for Student Loan Company purposes

Higher education providers that are not funded by HEFCE  still need to go through the specific course designation process. Details of this process can be found at


and at


Points to bear in mind

Students will wish to explore the kinds of course and the experience offered by these new providers and compare it with what they might receive elsewhere.

The long-term sustainability of these new ventures remained untested. Students will need to be confident that the degree they received will have continuing currency and a sound reputation for the rest of their lives.