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May 14, 2009

Staff and students at London Metropolitan University held a one-day strike as part of their fight to save at least 550 jobs that are at risk.

The university has been hit with funding cuts and repayment demands totalling tens of millions of pounds, following inaccurate reporting of the number of students completing courses.

The strike took place on 7 May, the day before revealed that the student non-completion rate reported to officials by London Metropolitan University was 13 times lower than that eventually established by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Figures obtained by Times Higher Education under the Freedom of Information Act from Hefce show the university reported a total dropout rate of just 2.3 per cent in 2006-07. The funding council put the rate at 30.6 per cent for the same year. The year before, the university had reported that 3.6 per cent of students failed to complete, compared with a Hefce figure of 30 per cent. In 2007-08 the university said it had 15,306 full-time undergraduate and taught postgraduate students; Hefce said there were 10,613.

Hefce has now asked the university to repay, over a five-year period, £36.5 million it was overpaid during 2005-06 to 2007-08. It also deducted £15 million from its 2008-09 recurrent funding.

"The main issues found in the audit review work were underlying weaknesses in the student record system and a misinterpretation of the funding rules," Hefce's FoI officer said.

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