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London Metropolitan University

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) when he was first informed of the inaccuracies relating to student data and funding at London Metropolitan University; (276990)

(2) on what date the Higher Education Funding Council for England first raised concerns with London Metropolitan University about its non-completion rates data for the 2005-06 academic year;

(3) what reasons representatives of the London Metropolitan University provided to the Higher Education Funding Council for England for its return of incorrect data on completion rates for the academic years (a) 2005-06, (b) 2006-07 and (c) 2007-08;

(4) what recent procedures he has put in place to ensure the accuracy of data on non-completion rates provided by universities to the Higher Education Funding Council for England;

(5) if he will commission an independent investigation into the recent submission of data on non-completion rates by London Metropolitan University to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

I will answer these questions on the current situation at London Metropolitan university (LMU) together. In doing so it should be borne in mind that responsibility for resolving these issues falls to the funding council and the university. Ministers are precluded in legislation from decisions on the funding of individual institutions. In answer to the specific questions:

First, Ministers were first informed about by the funding council about issues with audit of LMU’s data in February 2008.

Second, the funding council first raised concerns with LMU about its 2005/06 data in April 2007.

Third, LMU reported non-completions for each of these years based on its own interpretation of the funding council rules.

Fourth, the funding council already has a number of processes in place to ensure the accuracy of the data institutions provide which inform their funding. It was these processes that identified the problems at LMU.

Fifth, it is for the funding council to account for the funds it distributes. It has itself decided to commission an independent report into its handling of the situation at LMU. It will report to its board in July and will be made public. In addition the National Audit Office will be undertaking a study of the financial health of the HE sector later this year. It is likely to include LMU in that study. As such I will not be commissioning a separate investigation.