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Commercial services in higher education

higher education

Commercial contracts can come in all shapes, sizes and levels of complexity. Higher education institutions (HEI) deal with a myriad of commercial relationships and contracts with funders, suppliers, students, regulatory bodies, government departments and other academic institutions daily.

Our full-service commercial team comprises of specialist advisers who advise on all manner of commercial contracts and are supported by a wider team of lawyers specialising in employment, banking, taxation, government and infrastructure, and charities and governance matters.

Universities also deal with significant amounts of personal data and different jurisdictions, through student exchanges, accommodation, welfare and research. Universities are often at the cutting edge of data analytics and their research often involves sharing personal data across the private and public sector. Working with your data protection team we can make sure that you stay compliant in this increasingly litigious area.

What we offer

  • Advice on all aspects of commercial contracts including supply chain contracts, data protection outsourcing, licensing, GDPR, franchising, TUPE, marketing, event and sponsorship agreements and IT software agreements.
  • Support to HEIs on public procurement exercises, including commercial and legal advice on structuring and running procurement exercises, dealing with challenges and advising on compliant joint venture and collaboration structures.
  • Advice to HEIs on all taxation matters, including in relation to commercial and property transactions, charity law, employment tax issues, public-private outsourcing and joint ventures and trading subsidiaries.
  • Support to HEIs to enable you to maximise the commercial potential of your cutting-edge technologies.
  • Advice on all aspects of competition law including pricing and intellectual property (IP) ownership in research and development (R&D), technology transfer between universities and the private sector and R&D block exemption.
  • Support for universities on private finance initiatives (PFI) and public private partnership arrangements, having advised on over 50 PFI schemes involving the Department for Education.
  • Assistance on legacies and donations, including obtaining permissions from the Charity Commission where required.
  • Clear and concise advice in relation to the identification and assessment of state aid issues (and implementation of solutions) in a range of projects, from grant funding applications and research and development collaborations to student accommodation projects.

Recent experience

  • Advised the University of Leeds in relation to the variation of conditions attaching to legacies.

  • Advised Keele University with its ERDF funding application including state aid compliance advice looking at valuing contributions and exemptions.

  • Advised a university client on several student exchange agreements with other universities in North and South America, Asia and Australia. These involved advising the university on areas such as cross border liability and jurisdictional issues as well as data protection and the transfer of personal data across borders.

  • Acted for a confidential university client on charities and governance advice, joint venture structures, services companies, state aid and a host of contracting issues associated with the same.

  • Advised Loughborough University on the incorporation of its main trading subsidiary, including changes to its corporate structure and make up of its subsidiary’s board.

  • Advised Loughborough University on its testing phases and route to market with multiple collaborators involving patentable technology.

  • Advised a university on VAT and PAYE issues surrounding the exploitation of employed academics’ ideas for commercial purposes.

What the directories say...

The firm also stands out in the commercial sphere.

Legal 500 2020

A client says: "They are flexible, responsive and commercial."

"Their client service is really good," adds another. "They act as a team and everyone roots for you. They take a strategic view and are not just fixated on nailing the other side."

A client notes: "They offer excellent commercial advice at competitive rates."

Chambers 2020

What our clients say....

Browne Jacobson LLP work with Loughborough University on a range of high impact and high value contractual, intellectual property and R&D matters, both transactional and contentious. The advice is always clear and pragmatic, the responses timely and the manner measured and professional – the lawyers are easy to work with and our instructing officers are always grateful for the support provided. Browne Jacobson LLP is always willing to work with us in new and creative ways, adding value over and above the traditional lawyer-client relationship, while demonstrating that they understand the Higher Education landscape and the matters of concern for Universities.

Sam McGinty, Head of Legal Services, Loughborough University

Focus on...

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19 July 2021 marked the lifting of many restrictions within England including the cessation of the need for social distancing, the removal of the legal requirement for face masks, and the end of required homeworking. We look at the guidance on the lifting of restrictions in the context of staff working in the higher education sector.


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be connected newsletter for higher education - July 2021

In this edition we provide you with the latest in legal updates, news and insight from the higher education sector.


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The role of the SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities & the Arts for People and the Economy) subjects in knowledge exchange

Following publication of the first iteration of Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) results in Spring 2021, the British Academy released its report ‘Knowledge Exchange in the SHAPE disciplines’ (the Report) in June 2021 which presented a diverse range of case studies showing that knowledge exchange in SHAPE disciplines yields significant social, economic and cultural benefits.


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The Office for Student’s (OfS) aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.


Richard Nicholas

Richard Nicholas

Partner and Responsible for In House Lawyers

View profile

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