The Independent London Newspaper

University at risk: Governors resist calls for resignation in financial row

Sir Michael Snyder

Lecturers back government demands for board to step down amid fears of 500 job losses

UNDER-FIRE governors at London Metropolitan University are refusing to obey calls from government bosses to quit – despite fears the stand-off could lead to its closure.
Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), said in a letter to chairman of governors Peter Anwyl a fortnight ago he found it “difficult to maintain confidence in the governance of the university” – and that they should “consider their positions”.
Sir Alan gave the governing body six days to respond following publication of a damning report blaming it for failing to a stop a financial scandal that is currently threatening to undermine the Holloway campus.
It follows leaked correspondence between Hefce and ministers warning that “if all else fails, Hefce thinks that its only remaining option may be to ask the secretary of state [John Denham] to dissolve London Met… Clearly this is a nuclear option”.
Governors are understood to reject claims made in the report.
London Met – the cap­ital’s largest university – was plunged into crisis in January after Hefce auditors uncovered three years of “financial mismanagement” and the misreporting of student drop-out figures that Hefce bases its funding on.
London Met was asked to repay more than £35million in funding it had falsely claimed for students who did not complete their courses.
Vice chancellor Brian Roper quit the university in April after setting in motion a programme of swingeing staff cuts that would help the college repay the debt.
More than 500 jobs could be axed under the proposals.
Lecturers, staff and students this week set up a petition calling for governors responsible for the crisis to quit.
It reads: “We, the un­dersigned staff and students of London Met, note with growing impatience that Hefce took the ­un­precedented step of ­stating their lack of confidence in the board of ­governors and demanding their resignation, together with the executive team members responsible for the ruinous financial mismanagement of the university. We demand that the call to resign is heeded without any further delay.”
London Met’s board of governors is made up of 15 members. These include Sir Michael Snyder, a former chairman of the university’s audit committee and the Corporation of London’s policy finance committee, who is a senior partner of the Angel-based ac­countancy firm King­ston Smith. Jeremy Mayhew is a Common Councilman in the City of London and a consultant and former director at BBC Worldwide. The board is chaired by Mr Anwyl, director of International Students House, which provides ac­­c­ommodation for students in London.
Other governors in­­clude Professor Zanobia Nadirshaw, head of psychology at Kensington and Chelsea primary care trust; associate director of policy and research at the Learning and Skills Network Raj Patel; managing director of Platinumlinks Ltd Abdul Rahim; chief executive of English UK Ltd Tony Millns; and dean of London Met’s business school Bob Morgan.
A university spokeswoman said the governors will consider both reports at a board meeting on December 15. The new vice chancellor, Professor Malcolm Gillies, is seeking “a thoughtful, long-term plan to restore public confidence”.

• Union chiefs have called a protest outside the Moorgate campus of London Met at 3.45pm on Tuesday.
TOM FOOT

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