Why do the University title rules not apply to those nice former footballers?

We know the Government is keen on Alternative Providers, but why have they bestowed such a large favour on University Academy 92 by allowing it to include the word ‘University’ in its company title?

John Morgan followed up on this in the THE:

Questions have been raised about the Department for Education’s decision to allow UA92 to use the word “university” in its title (the DfE has said it did so on the grounds of Lancaster’s involvement).

UA92 does not yet formally exist (recruitment is scheduled to begin in January 2018, with courses starting in the autumn of that year) and does not have its own degree-awarding powers. So, is “university” the right word?

“It is a university,” replied Mr Neville. “We’ve got permission from the DfE to be able to use the word ‘university’…The reason we have the word ‘academy’ in there is because we’ve got a 16-18 offering as well.”

How does this work?  We know that there are currently two routes to full University title.  A higher education corporation may ask the Privy Council to use the powers it has as part of the Further & Higher Education Act (FHEA) 1992; the criteria are issued by the DfE and they gather advice through a process run by the QAA.  A company also goes through the QAA process, but the DfE’s advice culminates in a ‘non-objection’ to the use of the sensitive word ‘university’ under the terms of the 2006 Companies Act.

So, Mr Neville is wrong.  UA92 is not a university.  It does not have degree awarding powers, so it cannot be awarded university or university college title.  But DfE has given permission for the use of the word ‘university’ in the title anyway.  How?

The use of ‘University’ is prohibited for entities that are doing higher education.  In this way University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are not in breach of the FHEA, although there are criteria for their designation.  University hospitals are not universities, The University Arms Hotel is not a university etc etc.

A potentially confusing development has been the agreement that FECs can call their HE offering a ‘University Centre‘ or sometimes a ‘University Campus’.  There are some criteria for these, but it’s not clear that these are being enforced.

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So if UA92 is not a university, a university college, a university centre, or a university technical college, how does it get ‘university’ in its title?  We’re told it’s because of its link to Lancaster University.  Surely that can’t stand?  Lancaster are operating as a partner to UA92 in much the same way that many universities are to their partners.  What’s to stop them applying to DfE to get a ‘non-objection’ to the inclusion of ‘university’ in their company names?   

Maybe DfE could publish their rationale for why UA92 gets to have ‘university’ in its title?  Will it feature a reasoned argument or just a special case for a bunch of former footballers? 

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