[holding answer 2 July 2009]: It is an important principle set out in legislation (sections 65(1) and 68(2b) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992) that Ministers cannot intervene in the funding decisions for individual institutions made by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). As is the case with other universities, London Metropolitan University receives grant from HEFCE under a Financial Memorandum which sets out how it should properly account for its public funding. It is for the Funding Council to keep the financial health of the institutions it funds under review to protect the public interest, including ensuring that public funds are properly spent.
The University will wish to consider a bid to HEFCE’s Strategic Development Fund to support its future plans. The final decision on restructuring and forward planning must rest with the University and I remain confident that Higher Education provision in general across London will be sufficient to meet the diversity of demand. No Government, however, can give a commitment to protect every course or department at any particular institution.
[holding answer 2 July 2009]: The Funding Council’s Board and Chief Executive commissioned a report from KPMG of the lessons to be learned from its recent engagement with London Metropolitan University. It is for the Council to take decisions on publication. I have, however, been assured that it will be made available as soon as the Funding Council has had an opportunity to consider the findings of the report. This is expected to happen before the end of July.
[holding answer 10 July 2009]: HEFCE discussed the current situation at London Metropolitan university with Ministers in February 2008, 24 March 2009, 6 May 2009, 10 June 2009 and 8 July 2009. In addition there were discussions at HEFCE’s board meeting on 28 February 2008, 8 May 2008, 17 December 2008, 22 January 2009, 26 February 2009, 1 April 2009, and 7 May 2009. A senior official from the Department was present at each of these meetings. There have been regular discussions between HEFCE and other departmental officials throughout this period.
Ministers and officials have not sought to influence decisions on the finances of or the student numbers at London Metropolitan university, which under sections 65(1) and 68(2b) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 are a matter for the Funding Council.
[holding answer 2 July 2009]: I fully supported the Funding Council’s decision to commission an independent review of its own handling of the situation at London Metropolitan university. It has also always been my view that a similar review should be conducted into the actions of the university itself, and I have made that view clear in discussions with the Funding Council. I am therefore pleased that London Metropolitan has now commissioned Sir David Melville and Deloitte to conduct such a review. I believe that this must look at all aspects of what happened at London Metropolitan, including issues of governance.