It's that time of the year again when all the papers are full of photos of attractive A level students reading their results with glee, and talking about which university they are planning to go to...
This year, competition for places is compounded by the fact that, for the first time, there will be an array of tuition fees being offered by each university - ranging from £5k to up to £9k per year. As universities compete with each other on price as well as reputation, it's no surprise that parents are becoming a major part of the decision making ... gone are the days when all Mum and Dad did was drive you to your halls of residence. Today, we're more likely to see them turning up at open days, pouring over university websites - and even calling the admissions team to ask questions on behalf of their offspring ....
Are you a proper university?
As a privately owned and relatively new university, the most commonly asked question is usually "Are you a proper university?" To which, we reply that we are, and that we have to follow the same regulatory guidelines as any other institution before we can even think of awarding degrees, let alone enrolling students.
This is then followed by queries that relate to success rates of our graduates in terms of job chances, or "employability" once they've completed their degree. How times have changed! My peers at university years ago weren't even thinking of job prospects as they started fresher's week ...social life and making friends were high on the agenda, and I can't ever recall having a reason to visit the careers office on campus ....
There's a different mindset with BPP students. The main focus is on getting onto the career ladder or chosen profession as soon as possible - with a bit less emphasis on the living away from home and experiencing campus life for the first time. Of course, not everyone is in this mindframe - and there is a great social life at BPP University College, with lots of the usual societies, clubs and networking events. Even our student rep, elected each year is referred to as the CEO of students..
The non campus workplace environment ...
Walk into any of BPP's city centre locations, and the chances are, you'll feel like you are in the reception area within a workplace environment. This is deliberate - on our business and law programmes, students are encouraged to think and act like professionals - and indeed, some of them are already working, combining employment with part-time study. Others may have opted for our 2 year degree, which, although hard work, covers exactly the same content, but runs through the usual summer holidays.
Back to the careers advice. Any BPP student, once placed, has access to our careers service prior to starting, during their programme, and also after graduating. This has proven to be highly popular amongst those studying law - with interview techniques, mentoring, individual consultations and even getting to meet leading partners and training heads from law firms.
BPP does actually have strong links with employers and professionals nationally, but also in each city centre. In Manchester, our students have regular visits from local judges, lawyers, law societies and business groups. One of our accountancy students there won first prize in a competition which involved writing a business plan. In Bristol, we ran a competition for 6th formers to write, design and present a proposal on why they should win a free place at university.
What you won't get at BPP is a research intensive university. Whilst we don't have a number of academics working on reports or commercially funded research papers leading to published findings, we do have a faculty that concentrates just on teaching. Many of our programme directors, tutors and lecturers have recently, or still work within their professions.
A marketing student commented that she had benefited from her tutor's past experience of having worked at a senior level within a global FMCG company; another felt that the digital marketing teaching at BPP was relevant, up to date and practically delivered.
Unlike many other universities, BPP has the added strength of being established as a professional training provider. For the past 36 years, it has offered a range of non degree but professional qualification courses in accountancy, tax, audit, HR, actuarial, insolvency practice and marketing.
All students immediately benefit from this - as the knowledge is not only transferred, but leads to a range of professional exemptions, following completion of degree.
Our graduation ceremonies are well attended, and have taken place in the prestigious Guildhall in the city of London. BPP is also building up its Alumni programme, with some great former students on board
So, all in all, we're not all that different from the traditional universities. Our mantra is simple - we aim to provide a high quality, affordable and career focused degree programme to those who want to enter law, business, accountancy and healthcare.
If it means challenging the education status quo, then we will. Like any other publicly provided service, there is always an alternative - and, if people want more choice, they should be entitled to this.