04/01/2012 09:40 GMT | Updated 04/01/2012 11:33 GMT

David Willetts To Announce Plan For Privately Financed Science Universities

David Willetts will announce a plan to create a new form of privately financed universities in a speech on Wednesday morning.

Outlining the initiative, the universities minister said he wanted to invite institutions to develop ideas about how to create "new universities for the future" with international or businesses partners.

"I want us to look up to the horizon and see this is the future - high-tech, high-quality science and research which will drive economic growth as we go into the next decade," Willetts told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The government will not provide any new funding for this type of university, instead the universities minister is expected to say they are looking to "private finance and perhaps sponsorship" from some businesses.

"Today I can announce therefore that the coalition is inviting proposals for a new type of university with a focus on science and technology and on postgraduates. Local economic partnerships, universities, businesses and international partners can come together to put forward proposals for new institutions," he will say.

It follows a similar scheme in New York.

"There is no extra public money here. But first of all, we are backing and supporting local economic partnerships aimed at driving growth.

"There might be a city or an urban area that thinks they need to set aside a slice of this, and indeed in New York mayor Bloomberg ran a competition for a new graduate school in New York," he told the BBC.

Major American for-profit college corporations have already expanded into the UK in recent years, including the Apollo Group, which owns University of Phoenix, The Washington Post Company’s Kaplan higher education division and Career Education Corp. But until now, only one school – the Apollo Group’s BPP legal and business college -- has been able to officially award degrees in the UK.

Apollo Global - a subsidiary of The Carlyle Group - purchased BPP in 2009, after it had gained the crucial degree-granting distinction. Only a handful of other private non-profit institutions exist, unlike in the U.S., where the most prestigious university names are private non-profit schools.

“While the for-profit sector in Britain is very small at the moment, it has very powerful backers,” said Jonathan White, acting head of campaigns for the University and College Union speaking to Huffpost UK in July 2011. “The largely U.S.-based education companies are looking at breaking into the British market and expanding fast. They see that there’s a legislative and funding environment which gives them greater potential.”