BIS clamping down on satellite campuses?

BIS has recently published its Single Departmental Plan 2015-2020, and amongst its aims is included this really quite arresting line:

[to] clamp down on the number of so-called ‘satellite campuses’ opened in London, by universities located elsewhere in the UK

A number of questions spring to mind.  For example, why would BIS, committed as it appears to be to opening up the market and disrupting the HE status quo, want to “clamp down” on any particular form of delivery? If satellite campuses provide additional choice for domestic/EU students and are sustainable for their home universities, then what possible objection to them could BIS have? If on the other hand there was no particular demand for a satellite campus then it would be closed down by its home institution, as we have already seen in a number of previous cases.  It seems inconsistent and unjustified for BIS to take an interventionist approach to provision in the capital, whilst adopting a “let the market decide” mentality when it comes to the wider HE market.

The second question that springs to mind is how BIS intends to go about carrying out this “clampdown”.  The Home Office has of course already had a go at satellite campuses in the capital, but it had a ready-made mechanism to do so, in terms of its power to grant and revoke Tier 4 licences.

The path for BIS is far less clear in the absence of any quality or financial concerns where, for example, HEFCE might be able to engage with and bring some pressure to bear on the institution concerned. 

The third is the reference to clamping down on the number of satellite campuses.  This suggests BIS isn’t opposed to the concept per se, but the proliferation. So who decides how many is too many?  Who decides which institutions should run whatever number is decided to be optimal?

This really is a perplexing statement, at odds with the overall direction of travel BIS has signalled it intends to take, and one that potentially raises profound questions about institutional autonomy and indeed the much vaunted departmental aspiration for a level playing field.

For the Single Departmental Plan click here

Smita Jamdar 
Partner and Head of Education
T: 0121 214 0332


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