The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) announced this morning that it will not be proceeding with a proposal to convert the university into a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG).
The University and College Union (UCU) and UNISON led protests against the move and raised fears that the institution could become a for-profit enterprise selling off university assets and inviting investment from private equity funds.
The university is a higher education corporation and, although it would have remained a charity, the proposed changes would have made it easier to slim down governance structures and possibly regroup some or all of its assets into a for-profit subsidiary company.
The government’s ill-fated higher education bill was expected to have included legislation to make it easier for universities to become companies limited by guarantee, but its abandonment means that UCLAN would have had to apply to the secretary of state to dissolve the corporation.
The university said today’s decision came about after detailed discussions with the department for business, innovation and skills.
UNISON regional secretary, Kevan Nelson, said: “This is a massive victory for staff, students, unions and for the local community who were dead against these proposals from the start. They knew the dangers lurking in the privatisation plans; that profits would come first, above the needs of students learning at UCLAN or the staff working there.
“The strength of the opposition campaign should serve as a warning to other universities considering similar plans. Students, staff and unions will put up a fight to protect our publically provided universities from profit making private companies. Our universities are amongst the best in the world and we want them to stay that way.”
UCU regional official, Martyn Moss, said: “We are pleased UCLAN has rejected plans to become a company limited by guaranteed and, in particular, recognised the concerns the unions raised about how such a move would impact on staff.
“Government policies, coupled with for-profit companies circling the university sector, have resulted in some universities considering radical strategies to cope in the new higher education environment. However, we do not believe becoming a private company would have done anything for the university’s or the UK’s reputation.
“We still have some concerns about what may happen next at UCLAN, but hope to remain in positive dialogue with the vice-chancellor.”