Long goodbye at London Met

Governors bow to pressure and resign, but final departures won’t occur until summer 2010. Rebecca Attwood reports

December 16, 2009

The governors of London Metropolitan University have resigned following a period of intense pressure from funding chiefs.

According to London Met’s University and College Union branch, the chair of governors, Peter Anwyl, resigned with effect from the end of March 2010 at a governors’ meeting last night.

The other lay governors associated with the audit sub-committee – which the UCU branch said amounts to virtually all London Met’s lay governors – will follow suit in the summer.

In a statement to its members, the UCU says it assumes that an entirely new audit committee will be in place by April 2010.

The resignations follow a series of reports criticising the governors’ role in inaccurate data returns detailing student dropouts at London Met.

The university reported a non-completion rate of about 3 per cent, while under the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s definition, the actual rate was about 30 per cent.

The inaccuracies mean London Met has been forced to hand back £36.5 million it was overpaid by Hefce between 2005-06 and 2007-08, leaving the university in dire financial straits and hundreds of jobs at risk.

The UCU branch said it understood that a formal announcement on the resignations would be made today. It added that it understood the announcement would include a statement that the new vice-chancellor, Malcolm Gillies, would be investigating members of the executive group who were in post during the relevant period. This could include disciplinary action with the possibility of individual suspensions during the inquiries.

A statement from Kay Dudman, the staff governor, that was read out at the meeting says:

“It is clear that London Metropolitan University’s future and safety is at stake. Hefce has made apparent that there is a clear and immediate risk that funding will be withdrawn unless it is convinced that its financial support of the university with public funds is safeguarded to its satisfaction. It is noted that Hefce itself is not without blame, as cited in the [Sir David] Melville report, in particular for failing to make a written record of meetings.

“London Met cannot survive without public funds. The honourable, and indeed the only, course of action is for the members of the board of governors who were serving during the period in question to resign, and the executive… should follow suit.”

She adds: “Their sacrifice will be for the good of the institution as a whole, and allow London Met the opportunity to flourish once again under the leadership of a new vice-chancellor, a new board of governors and a new executive.”

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

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