London Met course closures may prove costly

London Met may miss out on millions as students are turned away. John Morgan reports

May 26, 2011

Credit: Chris Barber
At the crossroads: Students and staff await full details of radical changes

The radical programme of course closures at London Metropolitan University will cost the debt-hit institution millions of pounds in lost income after nearly 1,000 potential students were turned away for the coming academic year.

Some staff have questioned the financial case for London Met's decision to cut a swathe of courses including history, philosophy, performing arts, Caribbean studies and modern languages.

There will be no recruitment on the courses for 2011-12, but the university has yet to clarify whether current students will be able to complete their courses or how many academics will lose their jobs.

London Met staff suggest that 900 applicants were turned away as a result of the closures. The local University and College Union branch said that this would cost the university £6 million in lost income for 2011-12 alone.

London Met scrapped the courses in a bid to prepare for the introduction of the new tuition-fee regime in 2012-13, when it will set fees for some subjects as low as £4,500.

But in 2011-12, it must repay £10 million to the Higher Education Funding Council for England as part of repayments totalling £36 million, demanded after the institution wrongly claimed public money using inaccurate student completion data.

London Met's history course, one of those to be closed, was ranked 56th out of 92 in a recent university league table, outstripping the institution's overall performance, which saw it come last of 118 institutions.

Critics of the closures argue that the vice-chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, is seeking to follow the government's preferred model for former polytechnics, offering mainly vocational subjects at relatively low fees.

Professor Gillies' executive officer, Jonathan Woodhead, is a former adviser to David Willetts, the universities and science minister. And some London Met staff have claimed that Professor Gillies recently received a telephone call from Mr Willetts, congratulating him on having the "courage of his convictions".

The university declined to comment on this claim or on the figures for lost income.

Roddy Gallacher, former dean of the faculty hardest hit by the closures - Humanities, Arts, Languages and Education (Hale) - retired last month after being criticised by staff who claimed the cuts were based on flawed costings and inadequate consultation.

In an email sent to staff last week, Sally Neocosmos, interim university secretary, says that in Hale's case, "planning ran late and in key areas a desirable level of consultation did not occur". She adds that "some of the proposals put forward did not meet the sustainability requirements placed upon faculties".

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