Eight UK universities on US financial watch list

Washington releases ‘secret’ document naming hundreds of institutions under scrutiny

April 16, 2015

Source: Getty

Running a risk: the list, which has been widely reported, could make the institutions named less attractive to US students

Eight UK higher education institutions are included on an official US list of universities subject to heightened monitoring because of concerns about their finances or administration of US student loans.

The list of about 540 institutions on “heightened cash monitoring”, drawn up by the US Department of Education, mostly contains for-profit US colleges. But it also includes the universities of Brunel (which now says it has been removed), Birmingham City, Middlesex, Queen Margaret, Gloucestershire, Westminster, Rose Bruford College and the University of Wales, Lampeter, now part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

The list has been widely reported in the US and could make the institutions less attractive to US students. A department spokesman defended an earlier decision not to release it on the grounds that doing so would “likely cause the institutions substantial competitive injury”.

However, in a blog earlier this month, Ted Mitchell, US under secretary of education, says that releasing it complements wider efforts by the department to make university study “more affordable and accessible” by increasing “both the quantity and quality of information that students, families, borrowers and the public have about higher education”.

Heightened cash monitoring, he explains, can be triggered by various “financial or federal compliance issues”. It is “not necessarily a red flag” but means “we are watching these institutions more closely to ensure [they] are using federal student aid in a way that is accountable to both students and taxpayers”.

The UK institutions are all subject to the less serious of two levels of monitoring, and are still able to distribute US student loans. All but one are listed owing to concerns about “financial responsibility”, meaning that they have failed to demonstrate “the fundamental elements of the financial health of an institution”.

The exception is Gloucestershire, the concern about which relates to “administrative capacity”. A spokeswoman for the institution said that it withdrew from offering US federal aid to new students in 2013-14.

A spokeswoman for Queen Margaret said the institution had fallen foul of “a technical financial ratio adopted by the US government relating to the level of borrowings” on account of the debt it had taken on – with the approval of the Scottish Funding Council – to fund a new campus.

A Middlesex spokesman said it has been flagged up because of the unusual inclusion in its accounts of a defined contribution pension scheme liability.

A spokeswoman for Westminster cited a “purely technical accounting matter because of how the university reports its accounts”, while Birmingham City University blamed “a relatively minor procedural matter concerned with administering US student loans for a small number of students”, which has since been rectified.

A spokesman for Brunel said that although the university appeared on the most recently available list, it had been told by the department that it was no longer included and met all the department’s requirements.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David responded that there were a “number of mitigating factors” for its inclusion including the “recertification of the university’s registration from the original University of Wales, Lampeter, to UWTSD following merger in 2009. Throughout this period the university has been able to process federal loans”.

Rose Bruford did not respond to requests for comment.

The 31 non-US institutions on the list also include Australia’s University of Melbourne, the Netherlands’ University of Amsterdam and Canada’s University of Toronto. Toronto is subject to the more serious class of monitoring, meaning it no longer receives advance payments from the department.

paul.jump@tesglobal.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

International Student Support Assistant YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY
Senior Lecturer: Architecture (Cultural Content) NORWICH UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
Head of Department of Physics ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY
Research Assistant LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest