Oxford, but Not That Oxford: How a Tiny For-Profit School Suddenly Got Big

Experts say it is good that schools tell low-income students that money is available. But the money should be pitched as a way to finance education, they said, not as the point of enrolling.

At Oxford Business College, that distinction was not always clear. One student even pulled out her bank card at the school, expecting payments on the spot, recalled Antonino Pilade, a former visual content producer for the college.

“I could no longer understand,” he said. “Are we a bank, or are we a college?”

Buckinghamshire New University, the publicly funded school whose 2019 partnership propelled Oxford Business College’s transformation, said that it had seen “no evidence of wrongdoing” but that it would pause recruitment through the college and assign staff members to oversee recruitment and academic programs there.

The University of West London, another partner, said it was confident that its students at Oxford Business College met the same admission standards. Ravensbourne University London, a third partner, did not respond to questions.

In a brief telephone interview, Titiksha Shah, a dress designer who owns 60 percent of Oxford Business College, said she did not know how the school runs on a daily basis.

It has changed in recent years, she said, to become a “government-funded college.”

Partnerships between publicly funded universities and other schools, known as franchising arrangements, have been possible for years in Britain. But only recently have they have become so lucrative for colleges and a lifeline for the universities, experts say.

That is because direct government aid has all but dried up and tuition is capped by law. Universities, particularly those that cannot attract higher-paying international students, are scrambling for revenue.

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