Staff at Luton University have been encouraged to enrol as students on its courses in an apparent attempt to maintain numbers.
In a memo to all staff at the end of November, Luton's deputy vice-chancellor Kate Robinson warned them that it could lose funds for teaching because "substantial numbers of students are not yet properly enrolled... and students we don't know about we don't get paid for". She added: "If you have not yet registered on your own courses, you must do so by the end of next week."
Luton's vice-chancellor Dai John this week strongly denied that there was any concerted attempt to artificially boost student numbers through mass staff enrolments.
He said: "A small number of our staff are registered as students of the university. This includes staff registered for PhDs and DBAs as well as taught courses such as MBAs. This memo is intended to remind them that, just like any other students, they must register properlyI This is normal practice for the sector and valid within Hefce (Higher Education Funding Council for England) regulations."
The university's marketing and recruitment manager Rossitsa Costa has enrolled on a course - a DBA in "staff turnover and retention management". But she was forced to make an appeal to all staff last month to find a supervisor, after her original director of studies took voluntary redundancy.
Dr John stressed that the reference in Professor Robinson's memo to staff enrolling on "their own courses" did not mean that they were being encouraged to enrol on the courses that they themselves delivered. He said this would be against the rules.
In 2001, Hefce imposed financial penalties on Luton for failing to meet student targets. Shortly after the announcement, minutes of a directors'
meeting emerged that showed that senior managers had agreed to a concerted effort to sign up staff as Luton students, largely through "staff development for the university's own administrative staff" and for staff at local partner colleges.