Private University Tuition Fees Among Lowest In The UK

A private university has revealed it will be charging £5,000 a year to study, making its tuition fees some of the lowest in the UK.

The announcement came after Edinburgh University revealed it would be charging £9,000 a year, meaning undergraduates could pay up to £36,000 to complete their degree.

BPP University College will charge £5,000 a year for its three year courses and £6,000 a year for two year degrees. Students can opt for the latter and study through the summer - something currently unavailable at most other universities. The university has already seen a 200 per cent increase in applications since last year, suggesting students are willing to bypass traditional universities for a cheaper option.

In an interview with Huffington Post UK, CEO of BPP Carl Lygo said: "We offer the option to work during the summer meaning less fees and students are out in the job market sooner. Two thirds of our applicants apply with this intent."

Another institution not reliant on the government's higher education funding for survival is the University of Buckingham (BU). Both BPP and BU have their own degree-awarding powers granted by the Privy Council, which are reviewed regularly - unlike public universities.

But the private university system has come under fire from unions, politicians and public institutions.

A cross-party early day motion (EDM) against proposals to relax regulations and allow for-profit universities greater access to taxpayers' money has been signed by 124 MPs since June, including Sir Menzies Campbell and Charles Kennedy.

On Monday, Nick Clegg announced schools and colleges should never be run for profit. University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt has called on the deputy prime minister to make the same commitment to further education institutions.

"The privatisation plans endanger the quality and global reputation of UK universities and could see private companies getting rich at the expense of the taxpayer. This is the last thing we need here," she said.

But Lygo insisted private universities have more to offer than the standard degree course offered by public institutions.

"We are very much orientated around training students for a future career in industry, rather than theoretical, essay-based training. Most of the major law and accountancy firms use BPP to recruit their trainees and we have established contacts in both industries. One third of the legal profession train with us and around two thirds of accountants studied for their professional employment qualifications with BPP at some point in their lives. From last years graduates, only seven per cent are still looking for employment."

Despite BPP's cheaper fees, many private university degrees come at a far bigger cost.

In June, an elite-US style university headed by Richard Dawkins announced it would be opening its doors next September - with an £18,000 price tag attached.

A drawback for many students thinking of going private will be that borrowing a student loan to fund a private degree is currently capped at £6,000. Although this is currently under review in the Higher Education White Paper and may be raised to £9,000, the former figure has already been set for 2012/13.

The government have previously committed to promoting greater student choice by opening up the higher education market to alternative providers.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "We set out our plans in the white paper for a greater role for alternative higher education providers offering high quality and innovative teaching, wider choice and good value for students."

Additionally, BPP only offers courses in business and law, although these are available in six UK cities including London, Birmingham, Leeds and Swindon.

Jonathan Tatton, a 20-year-old straight A-student turned down Oxbridge to study law at BPP. He said: "When I chose my degree, employability and job prospects were at the forefront of my mind. I wanted to choose a course that would equip me for a life in a City law firm. But I didn't always plan to go to University, so I guess the traditional idea of the university experience held little appeal for me anyway."

Lygo agreed the courses aren't for everyone. "You don't get the whole student experience. Studying at BPP is more about progressing on to a career than living the student life for three years."