Gloucestershire university foreign student plan criticised
Plans to use a private firm to recruit and teach foreign university students in Gloucestershire have been slammed.
A union said that a University of Gloucestershire partnership with INTO would be "too risky" and "unnecessary".
It is concerned that the firm is to take full control of teaching foreign students on English language courses and other courses up to degree level.
The university dismissed privatisation claims and said it was about "securing a thriving future" for itself.
'Motivated by profit'
It added that the discussions taking place with INTO were a "good opportunity" and had been approved in principle by the University Council.
However the University and College Union (UCU) said it was not the right time to risk pumping "as much as £10m" into the partnership.
It also claimed eight members of staff are under threat of being transferred to INTO employment, and 97% of UCU members on site (some 229 staff) were opposed to the partnership.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Staff at the University of Gloucestershire do not believe that a private company, which is motivated by profit, is an appropriate organisation to run local education.
"UCU is campaigning hard against the privatisation of higher education.
The university is now in sound financial health and we are not prepared to watch it risk its reputation and future financial health by signing capital and revenue over to what is in effect a private sector property developer."
The company INTO offers a network of university-based study centres for international students.
It has bases at such institutions as the University of East Anglia, City University London, the University of Exeter and Newcastle University.
A statement from the University of Gloucestershire in response to the union's claims said that discussions with INTO reflected its objectives to take opportunities to grow and strengthen international partnerships.
It said: "Contrary to the claims made by the national UCU, this is not about 'privatisation' of higher education.
"It is about forming a joint venture with a company which has a successful track record in international student recruitment, as one way of securing a thriving future for our university and all those who work here."
It also said that it was keeping university staff and unions briefed as the discussions progress.
A spokesman for INTO said the company had nothing further to add.