US for-profit companies have eyes on the UK higher education market

It seems that the UK Privy Council ruling on BPP Professional Education we reported on giving BPP degree awarding capabilities in the UK has given an encouraging signal to other US companies keen to invest in the UK higher education sector.

Bridgepoint Education, whose self-declared mission is to acquire, develop and operate global organizations, is a for-profit company now poised to follow BPP’s example and venture into the UK higher education market in the next 18-24 months.

The UK is viewed as offering new possibilities for profit, and it is clear that the overall trend of an increase in profits for these companies is partly due to their globalising strategies. The introduction of £3,000 top up fees in the UK makes the investment more viable, whilst a sympathetic hearing from the Privy Council opened the regulatory gates to more eager investors willing to try their luck. Added to this, the UK continues to be an attractive destination for foreign fee-paying students, while the USA’s position in the global higher education market is one of a slight decline.

Bridgewater plans to concentrate on post-graduate business related degrees – a lucrative area in the higher education field and popular amongst foreign fee-paying students.  However,  it also has designs on entering the undergraduate market in the UK.

Bridgewater–whose biggest shareholder is the private equity company Warburg Pincus–is best known in the US for its purchase of the Franciscan University of the Prairies, a Roman Catholic institution in Iowa now known as Ashford University.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education,

Bridgewater will join Kaplan Higher Education International, a division of Kaplan Inc. in Britain in applying for degree awarding powers next year.

These developments may well set in train a series of new ventures that will radically alter the higher education scene in the UK.

Susan Robertson