Legal educator BPP has rebutted claims that it degraded the quality of teaching during lockdown and prioritised students with prestigious training contracts.
Responding to a complaint lodged by a group of post-graduate students last month, BPP’s dean of academic quality partly upheld just four of the 27 issues raised.
In a document seen by the Gazette, Christopher Costigan expressed ‘enormous sympathy’ for students affected by the pandemic, but said the university acted in line with its contractual obligations.
‘The issues around class size arose as a direct result of the pandemic, which is a force majeure event,’ he said. ‘On that basis, actions the university took to mitigate the impacts, even if they conflict with other contractual provisions, are allowed. Whilst I am therefore able to express enormous sympathy for students as they did not have the educational experience they expected, I do find that the actions of the school to mitigate the impact of the force majeure event were reasonable.’
Costigan also found that BPP did not prioritise study materials for students with training contracts at the university’s ‘consortium’ of City firms: Slaughter and May, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright and Herbert Smith Freehills. Instead, the key differentiator was ‘whether the cohort would benefit, not whether it was a cohort of sponsored students’.
On course fees, BPP defended charging students in London more for tuition, despite the fact all learning moved online during the lockdown.
‘The main thrust of this point is that some students are paying a lower price than others and this is unfair as all students are now being taught online. This is not the correct analysis. BPP University contracts with each student as an individual and our relationship is governed by the terms and conditions of that individual contract; which includes the price for the programme,’ Costigan said.
He added that the government’s position was that universities were entitled to charge their full fees where teaching had been moved online as a result of the pandemic.
However, BPP partly upheld complaints in relation to online assessments; delays in responding to emails; its ‘no detriment’ policy’; and its use of virtual announcements.
The Gazette understands that students intend to appeal the outcome. BPP has been approached for comment.