University with a poor administrative record given a second chance

London Metropolitan University has been returned to 'highly trusted status'
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The Independent Online

A university with the worst administrative record in the UK over the past decade has been awarded "highly trusted status" to help it to recruit overseas students again.

London Metropolitan University (LMU) became the first in the country to be refused permission to take in students from overseas after a series of administrative blunders over the status of students' visas.

The revelation followed an earlier scandal when LMU faced an unprecedented demand from higher education spending watchdogs to repay £36.5m of government funding after it had falsified student returns.

The return to "highly trusted status" is considered the most significant achievement of its new vice-chancellor, Professor John Raftery. He acknowledged his top priority was to "heal the reputation of the university".

Professor Raftery, who celebrated the end of his first 90 days in office yesterday, said: "This goes a long way towards rebuilding and restoring our reputation. More than anybody now, though, we have to be immaculate in keeping our records, but it was a great win for us. It has lifted staff up and improved morale.

"Since 2002-03, something like 50,000 students have graduated from here. Over 50 per cent were from black ethnic groups and half of them came from within a seven-mile radius around Holloway."

He realises that the university cannot just stand on its record and so has proposals to give students a better deal. He is introducing a graduate intern scheme to help provide employment for students as they finish degrees. He is also encouraging students to develop closer links with the community and to volunteer to work with local charities while they study.

He is setting a target of providing 10,000 extra hours of instruction for the university's students, aimed mainly at high-ability students in their second and third years.

Professor Raftery believes this could help to cut the university's unenviable drop-out rate. It was the worst-performing institution in the country this year, with 15.5 per cent of candidates quitting. "We want to spend more time coaching and developing our students and getting them engaged," he added.