Without prejudice to sensitive and ongoing discussions with institutions where Higher Education Funding Council for England funding has been overpaid because of inaccurate data returns, let me clarify three points in relation to your leader ("Good work that needs to continue", 5 February).
First, grant overpaid to, or overclaimed by, a higher education institution or institutions reduces that paid to others. Any recovered funding is therefore available for reinvestment across the sector. Thus, by reclaiming grant we are ensuring that public funds are appropriately invested and that funding equity is preserved. Not to do so would penalise institutions that provide accurate data returns.
Second, there has been no change to our audit engagements with institutions. They are scheduled on an agreed cycle, with supplementary engagements only if significant changes in returns trigger them. Of course, we now ask audit committees to provide their opinions on data quality and accuracy. The reasons are not hard to gauge.
Third, you say in your leader that we as a society penalise the institutions doing the most difficult job of recruiting those students most likely to drop out. In order to help institutions support their students to completion, Hefce provides significant additional funding for improving retention. This is targeted at those institutions that recruit more students at higher risk of dropping out. However, we have a duty to recover funding when it is based on incorrect data.
David Eastwood, Chief executive, Higher Education Funding Council for England.