Saturday, 8 May 2010

Universities claim millions for dropouts

UNIVERSITIES have wrongfully claimed tens of millions of pounds from the taxpayer for students who have dropped out of their courses, according to documents the government tried to keep secret.


In the papers, officials accuse universities of “artfully misconstruing” data in a “co-ordinated approach” to ensure they could claim as much as possible from the taxpayer. They found half the universities they checked were taking the extra money. The documents also list seven universities and colleges at “higher risk” because of various financial problems.

Those on the list include London Metropolitan, which has been ordered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) to pay back £36.5m it wrongly claimed from the taxpayer. The papers show both Hefce and David Lammy, the Labour universities minister, considered closing down London Met before discovering that a legal loophole meant they did not have the powers.

Figures released this weekend show audits carried out on other institutions in the wake of the London Met scandal led to a further clawback of £50m. The total of more than £86m would be enough to fund an entire university for a year.

More at Sunday Times-May 9th 2010

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