Ups and downs: £7m profit and inquiries at St Patrick’s

SLC fee payments to private college suspended pending BIS investigation with a QAA report expected in April

March 26, 2015

Source: Reuters

Growth spurt: St Patrick’s went from under 50 students to 4,000 in a year

The private college that receives more public-backed student loans funding than any other in England, St Patrick’s, has seen its profits grow from £1 million to £7 million, as investigations by the government and quality watchdog at the institution continue.

The college’s turnover also grew from £8.2 million to £73.5 million, according to recently published accounts for the period from December 2012 to May 2014. St Patrick’s, which as Times Higher Education has reported is owned by a holding company registered in the Netherlands, began recruiting students who had access to Student Loans Company funding in 2012-13.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is currently investigating St Patrick’s, although it has not disclosed what exact issue it is looking into. “We expect our investigations to conclude shortly, however, we cannot comment on investigations while they are still ongoing,” a BIS spokesman said.

Martin Donnelly, the BIS permanent secretary, told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 16 March that SLC fee payments to St Patrick’s had been suspended, pending the completion of the investigation.

The Quality Assurance Agency is also holding an investigation at the college under its Concerns scheme, which deals with issues of quality and standards. Publication of its report is expected at the end of April.

The St Patrick’s accounts show a profit of £7.1 million after tax, in the period from December 2012 to May 2014, up from £1 million in the previous accounting period. In 2012-13, St Patrick’s went from having fewer than 50 students on sub-degree Higher National courses with SLC loans to more than 4,000.

In 2013-14, the college had 6,668 students claiming £25.3 million in SLC fee loans, the largest level for any private provider.

The St Patrick’s accounts state that the company is “a wholly owned subsidiary of St Patrick’s Holding BV, a Dutch corporation”.

The accounts add that the “ultimate controlling party is A Etingen”. The executive chairman of another private college, the London School of Business and Finance, is Aaron Etingen. LSBF was the third biggest private college, behind St Patrick’s and GSM London, in terms of student fees received via the SLC in 2013-14, with a total of £17 million.

Daniel Khan, the St Patrick’s principal, addressed students at a graduation ceremony this month, which followed shortly after BBC Radio 4 broadcast an edition of Face the Facts about the college. A video of the address was posted on YouTube by the college.

Professor Khan, who has previously said that his professorial title was awarded by Yangtze University in China, told students: “The media is gunning for us.”

He told them that “anywhere you go in the world you can hold your HND [Higher National Diploma] and it’s respected” and that the college was focused on improving opportunities for “whites, blacks, for immigrants, whatever colour”.

He continued: “The profit in St Patrick’s, it is not a balance sheet profit. The profit in St Patrick’s is the contribution you as our students and our graduates give back to society – that is our profit.”

THE contacted St Patrick’s for comment, but the college did not respond in time for THE’s deadline.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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