Pay-offs by colleges spark investigation

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Six further education colleges are being investigated for making high severance payments to staff, according to a report published today, writes Chris Blackhurst.

The report from the National Audit Office, the public finance watchdog, examines the cases of the vice-chancellors of Huddersfield and Portsmouth universities, who were due to receive substantial, six-figure, pay-offs last year. Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, found six other colleges where "potentially unusual payments" had been made.

Inspectors from the Higher Education Funding Council are looking into these cases, believed to involve £300,000, and will report to MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The report also uncovers 24 cases where senior staff were made redundant and received pay-offs, only to be rehired at the same college.

The audit office discloses that Professor Kenneth Durrands, who left Huddersfield University after months of unrest, was in line to pick up more than £400,000.

Following public pressure, the Higher Education Council has forced the university governors to slash the value of his package to £150,000.