Staff and students to protest as board meets to discuss damning revelations of funds claimed for non-existent students writes Rachel Williams for the Guardian.
Troubled London Metropolitan University could lose out on badly-needed funding to help with its financial woes if the board of governors does not resign, leaked documents suggest ahead of a crunch meeting today.
Last month the head of Hefce, the body that funds universities in England, wrote to the chairman of governors at London Met in the wake of revelations that it falsely claimed funding for non-existent students, calling for board members to "consider their positions".
Staff and students will protest outside as the board meets to discuss the university's response to a damning inquiry published last week, which found that the institution had misused public money. Sir David Melville, former vice-chancellor of Kent University, warned in his report that senior officials at London Met must take responsibility for a fiasco which saw the university receive tens of millions of pounds in overpayments after submitting inaccurate student data. It has been ordered to pay back £36.5m.
But a leaked email suggests Hefce's assessment of the "adequacy" of the board's response would be critical to the success of a bid for cash and "any requests for further assistance".
The email, from London Met's acting vice-chancellor Alfred Morris to Hefce chief executive Sir Alan Langlands, predates the reports and Langlands' letter to London Met's chairman of governors.
Summarising Langlands' comments, the email said: "It would not be easy to persuade the Hefce board of the case for significant further support, and the restoration of mutual respect and confidence remained an essential preliminary."
The University and College Union (UCU) today said the governors' position had become "completely untenable" and demanded that they stand down.
UCU's general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "London Met desperately needs a fresh start and that cannot happen with the current board of governors in place.
"The position of the board is completely untenable and they will cause greater damage by remaining in post.
"Nobody can have confidence in the university until there has been a proper shake up at the top and those behind the current shambles have gone."
Hefce said Langlands and Peter Anwyl, the chair of the board of governors, had a "purposeful meeting" earlier this month and met again yesterday.
"Both are committed to ensuring the wellbeing of the current students and supporting the continued provision of their education," a spokesman said. "They are equally concerned to ensure that there are governance arrangements in place which sustain confidence in the work of the university."
A London Met spokeswoman said: "The board of governors will be considering the detail of the university's response to the findings of both reports at its next board meeting on December 15.
"We will be preparing a full response to both reports, specifiying the detail and time scales of actions to be taken."
The incoming vice-chancellor, Professor Malcolm Gillies, who joins the university in late January, would be closely involved in the process, she added. "[Gillies] has been clear in his determination that all action must be in accord with a thoughtful, long-term plan that emphasises student learning and staff scholarship, and seeks to restore public confidence in the university."