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04.03.10. Trojan accreditation: Private partners pose threat in the battle for students

Universities are being undercut by colleges' low-fee offerings, UUK warns. Melanie Newman reports

Private colleges should be viewed as competitive threats to universities in the market for overseas and domestic students.

The warning is made in a report commissioned by Universities UK and comes in the same week as the Conservative Party pledged to end government bias against private higher education institutions.

The report, due to be unveiled on 18 March at a UUK conference on private provision, says private colleges offering university-accredited qualifications have become the most prominent private providers in the sector.

Many charge fees well below those levied by accrediting institutions and are recruiting increasing numbers of foreign students from outside the European Union.

A small but growing number of UK-domiciled students are also opting to study at these institutions, the report adds, possibly drawn by their low fees.

Many universities have links to private colleges because they are a good source of international students, who may go on to transfer to the universities after completing their studies. Accreditation fees are also a useful source of income.

But the report warns that these benefits may be outweighed by the competitive threat posed by some colleges. It urges publicly funded institutions to scrutinise the colleges they validate and the fees they charge to ensure that their own markets are not threatened.

 Read more at timeshighereducation.