The blog post is a follow-up to BBC’s Panorama episode on Monday 13 November “where reporter Richard Watson exposed the shady practices of education agents populating such places with students.”
Dr Breen pointed out that the biggest issue is “the burden on the taxpayer and individual students” due to the ease how private providers can exploit loopholes in the student loans' system.
He continues: “Despite this, Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, appears determined to make it easier for private providers to exist in an increasingly market-driven higher educational environment. This appears to be shaped by an ever rising desire to turn students into consumers, and to have universities characterised by competitiveness and ease of access rather than critical thought and research. It could also be seen as a way of directing taxpayers' money away from traditional universities and into the hands of private investors and organisations run purely for the profits of shareholders.”
He points out the example of Gary Neville and Manchester United's legendary 'class of 92' planning to open a university academy, UA'92. “Many academics, and probably Unions too, will argue that private ventures being proferred with the title of 'university' muddies the waters of what the word traditionally means,” he writes.
But he adds: “This does not mean that there is no place for private institutions. Some of these new universities do advocate traditional higher educational values, and have absolutely no association with manipulation of qualifications, loopholes and loans. Generally though, these are specialist colleges that have been created by academics or experts in a particular field such as Business or Law.”