Funders keep eye on Melton

December 10, 1999

College funding chiefs are appointing an official observer at Melton Mowbray College under tough anti-sleaze powers introduced earlier this year.

This follows an inquiry into The THES's allegations that the college recruited suspected illegal immigrants as students and that the clerk to the governors lacked sufficient independence from management.

The inquiry by Terry Melia, former chief inspector of colleges, has called for significant improvements in the Midland college's practices. He said governors should review all arrangements for overseas student recruitment.

The THES revealed that the college accepted fees from one Sri Lankan student after it had been warned that she was suspected of obtaining her visa by deception. Another student was invited to join the college from Sri Lanka without a basic English-language qualification. He disappeared on entering the United Kingdom, it was confirmed.

Following The THES's further revelation that clerk to the governors, Denise Reed, was a close friend and neighbour of college principal Ken Masters, Dr Melia found that the appointment had been made in contravention of best-practice guidelines.

He has recommended that the post be readvertised with a job description. The college should also "give urgent consideration to how the independence of the clerk may be assured" in accordance with college governance rules.

The college released Dr Melia's recommendations but not his full report. In a statement it claimed to have been "exonerated from any alleged misconduct". The college said that Dr Melia had found that the college satisfied its duty of care with regard to overseas students, and that Melton worked closely with British high commissions to ensure students were bona fide. It said that Dr Melia had found "no evidence" that the clerk to the governors had compromised her independence.

Dr Melia's recommendation to the Further Education Funding Council to appoint an observer, the college said, "confirms an earlier decision of governors to invite an observer as part of the college's application for exceptional support from the FEFC".

A separate governors' inquiry into staff discontent is under way following an overwhelming vote of no confidence by the joint trade unions in Mr Masters and client services manager Chris Eveling.

Whistleblowers, page 8

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