MPs criticise lax oversight of £1.2bn higher education expansion

The Guardian is reporting that the Public Accounts Committee is claiming that Department for Business, Innovation and Skills ignored repeated warnings about potential waste and abuse of public money…

The government department pioneering the privatisation of higher education ignored repeated warnings about the potential abuse of public money, failed to bring in laws to control its policy and now has no clue how much of the £1.27bn paid out from the public purse has been lost to fraud or waste, the parliamentary spending watchdog has found.

A report from the Commons public accounts committee says the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) pressed ahead with a four-year expansion of UK private colleges “without a robust legislative framework to protect public money”.

Following changes introduced by the then universities minister David Willetts in 2010 that were meant to usher in a new era in higher education, private colleges – like public and a handful of private universities – were permitted to take on students funded with government-issued student loans.

With access to public money, the colleges were meant to compete with universities in giving students a wider choice of qualifications and more flexible study…

However, last May whistleblowers told the Guardian that students at a number of colleges were not attending classes and were being enrolled to do diplomas even though they could barely speak English.

Students caught on undercover filming alleged that classmates from the EU were ripping off public money by claiming loans and grants while were living abroad.

One lecturer said the institution he worked at was dubbed the “ATM” for the ease with which students could get “free” money in grant handouts and loans that they believed no one would make them repay.

The committee’s chair, Margaret Hodge, said Bis was given explicit warnings by the Universities and College Union (UCU) and others about the potential waste and abuse of public money but “chose to disregard them, both before and after implementation”…

More at: MPs criticise lax oversight of £1.2bn higher education expansion


This sounds a right mess – unforeseen consequences or should Bis have known better all along? Please tell us how you see it in the comments or via Twitter…


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