Page last updated at 21:16 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Cash crisis university criticised

There have been a series of protests outside the university

A financial mismanagement report on a London university has found board members were aware unfair funding claims were made for the institution.

London Metropolitan University (LMU) was ordered to repay £36.5m after issuing false data on student numbers.

A draft report into the crisis, seen by the Press Association, finds the board knew it was using a wrong definition to calculate student levels.

LMU said it would learn "important lessons" from the report.

The problem arose because the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE ) only provides universities with money for a student who sits all their exams at the end of the year.

I fail to see how the board of governors can remain in post after such a damning report
Sally Hunt, University and College Union

LMU admitted it counted students as having completed the period if they moved into the next year, regardless of whether they had sat all exams.

Under the LMU's definition, just 3% of students failed to complete the year. Under the real definition the non-completion rate was 30%.

The payback order threw London's biggest university - with 34,000 students - into financial crisis.

Lecturers worried about redundancy during the fallout have staged several strikes.

Now the inquiry, led by Sir David Melville, lays blame for the fiasco squarely at the door of former vice-chancellor Brian Roper and his board.

"The unique level of the LMU clawback is attributable to a combination of ignoring the HEFCE definition and a failure to address very high levels of incomplete modules and student drop-out," the report said.

'Renewed focus'

"It must be the case that the board of governors and the audit committee should take their share of corporate responsibility for a failure of this magnitude."

An LMU spokesman said: "We are confident the appointment of a new vice-chancellor, subsequent action taken by the board and the university's new strategic plan will allow London Met to renew our focus on students and their education."

University and College Union general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "I fail to see how the board of governors can remain in post after such a damning report.

"Sir David Melville's report completely vindicates everything the union has been saying yet, whilst it might be nice to be right, it is no comfort in these extraordinary circumstances."

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