The College of Law is to target expansion of its new undergraduate law degree following its sale to Montague Private Equity.
The deal separates the legal education and training business from the college’s charitable activities, with the proceeds of the sale going into a £200m-plus fund, set to be renamed The Legal Education Foundation.
One of the largest independent educational charities in the UK, the foundation will have around £7m a year to distribute. Its aim will be to further the college’s charitable object to promote the advancement of legal education and the study of law for future generations of students through bursaries, scholarships and grants.
It will also become more involved in policy issues, with the Legal Services Institute headed by Professor Stephen Mayson likely to be bulked up.
Montagu is supporting the existing management team, led by Professor Nigel Savage, and in its first board appointment to the new company named Professor Sir Tim Wilson – former vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire – as a non-executive director with special responsibility for monitoring academic standards and quality.
He will also chair the academic audit and standards committee, and Professor Savage explained to Legal Futures that in the event that Sir Tim leaves the board, there will be an independent element in the selection of his replacement to ensure the continuing rigour of the academic oversight from the board.
Montagu has also committed to establishing a college scholarship fund with an investment of £2m for the benefit of students. Further, it will place 2% of the fully diluted share capital in the ultimate holding company of the college into the scholarship fund.
Both universities and science minister David Willetts and Legal Services Board chairman David Edmonds welcomed the decision. Mr Willetts said the foundation will help to achieve fair access to the profession, while the college will be able to build its brand internationally. Mr Edmonds said the foundation “has the potential to act as a catalyst to promoting further access to the profession and to encouraging the ongoing development of new ideas”, and will also enhance competition in the legal education sector.
Professor David Yates, chairman of the College’s governors, said: “Montagu’s investment will give the College of Law the freedom and support to continue to build its position as a leading professional legal education institution in the UK and internationally. The governors were clear in their views that Montagu would be an excellent guardian of the college, ensuring a continuation and enhancement of the focus on academic excellence, exceptional teaching and client service that has long characterised the college’s work.”
Professor Savage said that having a business run by trustees had become increasingly difficult, especially as the commercial environment required the college to take business risks. The endowment of the new fund also meant that the annual level of the college’s charitable activities would no longer be dependent on its financial success.
He said the aim is to grow the business, with its new two-year LLB attracting 500 applicants through UCAS, and plans to grow overseas, following its law firm clients into “overseas hubs”.
Professor Savage, who is 61, said he had no intention of retiring and that he wanted to see the college through the transition over the next few years. “I will go on for as long as people will have me,” he said.
Montagu director Alex Dabbous said: “We are very pleased to be investing in this exceptional education institution. The College of Law’s strength lies in the quality of its education provision, decades of experience from talented staff and management, its national footprint and excellent facilities.
“We share management’s vision to grow the business, enabling it to reach its full potential, and focus on delivering the highest standards of education that the College of Law is reputed for.”
Recommended further reading: by Professor Richard Moorhead