November 27, 2009 3:53 pm diary
Most people, if they had mislaid millions of pounds, would have to explain themselves to the fraud squad – unless they were a big banker, of course, when they could then look forward to a large cheque courtesy of taxpayers. So it will be interesting to see if things are different in the rarefied world of academe. In an unprecedented step, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which funds English universities, has called for the entire board of governors at London Metropolitan University to resign. Two reports, one from accounting firm Deloitte, found that the university claimed falsely for thousands of students and it has been ordered to repay a staggering £36 million. Some academic staff – who played no part in this perfidy – have already paid for it with their jobs and many others are also expected to be made redundant in a desperate bid to cut costs. The previous vice-chancellor left under a cloud, but is rumoured to be still on the payroll until the end of the year. There are reports that an injunction bars him from entering university premises. However, since he is said to have left the country, he might not find that too inconvenient. The governors have been invited “to consider their position”. Some people might think that would be up a certain creek without a paddle. But who actually has the power to sack the governors is a grey area. Since universities are part of Lord Mandelson’s vast remit, he may want to have a word. According to Deloitte, LMU failed to keep track of its students or ensure they sat examinations. It claimed money for more students than were actually attending. It is even alleged that no eyebrows were raised when “Bugs Bunny” registered for a course. The surprise is that university managers did not try to tap the Hollywood star for a donation and ask his famous friends, Daffy Duck and Sylvester the Cat, if they would like to contribute, too.