QAA upholds two out of six concerns about St Patrick’s

Watchdog finds reports of fighting in classroom at private provider and sets six-week deadline for action plan

May 7, 2015

Source: Alamy

Official site: the collapsed building in Carey Street was listed by St Patrick’s

A building that collapsed into a pile of rubble was still officially listed as a site of the UK’s biggest private college when it fell down, it has emerged, while the quality watchdog has upheld two concerns about the college and found reports of fighting in the classroom.

A report on St Patrick’s College, where students have received £185 million in public-backed funding in the past two years, was published on 30 April by the Quality Assurance Agency under its Concerns scheme.

In 2013-14, nearly 7,000 students claimed Student Loans Company tuition fee loans to take St Patrick’s sub-degree Higher National courses, awarded by Pearson.

The QAA’s report found that practice was “broadly acceptable” in four out of six areas examined at the college. The “significant exceptions” were admissions procedures and student retention and attendance, where the QAA said the “concerns raised are justified”.

The QAA found dropout rates of more than 30 per cent on St Patrick’s courses, along with reports from current students of “fighting in the classroom”.

The report found evidence “indicative of recruitment errors and a failure to ensure that academic staff are equipped to cope with periodic disciplinary problems”.

However, following the report, the government gave the green light to for-profit St Patrick’s to resume accessing public money.

The college had fee payments suspended earlier this year by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. BIS mounted its own investigation into the college, which has concluded but has not been published. Following the QAA report, St Patrick’s “will provide an action plan” within six weeks, to be followed up by a full Higher Education Review to ensure that the report’s recommendations are addressed, the watchdog says.

Daniel Khan, principal of St Patrick’s, said that the college “takes particular satisfaction from QAA’s finding that the majority of the concerns raised cannot be upheld and its recognition that students speak positively about the helpfulness of teaching staff, person[al] tutors, and unit leaders”.

Until Times Higher Education drew it to BIS’ attention, the register of providers on the Higher Education Funding Council for England website, developed to give students more information about an increasingly diverse sector, listed 48 Carey Street in Central London as one of the college’s official sites.

On 20 April, that building, which had been leased by St Patrick’s in its period of rapid expansion, suffered a dramatic collapse as it was being demolished.

St Patrick’s left Carey Street in September last year and began to teach from new sites in Billiter Street in the City of London, and in Stratford in East London. Private providers’ campuses must be designated by BIS if students at those sites are to receive SLC funding.

A BIS spokesman said: “We allowed existing students on support to continue their studies at the new campus while we considered the application for designation in order to limit unnecessary disruption.”

He also said that Vince Cable, the business secretary, had written to St Patrick’s last month to designate the Billiter Street and Stratford sites for existing and new students.

Professor Khan, who has previously said that his professorial title was awarded by Yangtze University in China, said that “providers cannot directly change that [Hefce] register and all information on it comes from government bodies”.

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 3 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

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Post-doctoral Research Associate in Chemistry

University Of Western Australia

PACE Data Support Officer

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Associate Lecturer in Nursing

Central Queensland University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Alexander Wedderburn

Former president of the British Psychological Society remembered

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham

The University of Aberdeen

Tim Ingold and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen have created a manifesto that they hope will preserve higher education's true values