Coalition of Modern Universities hires BPPA

A group of universities created out of the former polytechnics have hired Bell Pottinger Public Affairs to bolster their image and influence the debate raging over higher education funding.

The Coalition of Modern Universities, which represents the post-1992 Universities including Sheffield Hallam and the University of Westminster, fears the views of its members are being overlooked in the funding debate.

BPPA is only the second agency used by the Coalition that previously handed Westminster Strategy its launch contract in 1994. The latest one-year initial contract was awarded after the agency approached the CMU.

CMU chief executive Colin Matheson said the debate has so far been dominated by the influential traditional universities led by Oxford and Cambridge.

'We want to make sure that our voice does not go unheard. Now is a crucial time for the future of higher education,' he added.

Matheson wants to remind ministers of the CMU's strong links to disadvantaged communities now central to ministers' plans to tackle disadvantaged communities.

He will warn that top-up fees risk deterring students from such areas and thwarting ministers targets that half of all under-30s experience higher education.

Matheson compared graduate tax and top-up fees with the former being the 'lesser of two evils' while warning against moves to scrap his members research degrees powers.

The appointment comes as the Government prepares to publish its proposals later this month on the future of university funding.

The account will be overseen by BPPA managing director Peter Bingle, account director Jodie Cohen and account executive Sarah Brown.

Bingle said: '(The CMU) has a vital role to play in the formulation of higher education policy.'

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