OfS closes probe into ‘significant and systematic failings’ at De Montfort University

Leicester's DMU agrees to stringent action plan and releases public statement following departure of vice-chancellor and governors

The Office for Students’ (OfS) investigation into Leicester’s De Montford University (DMU) has been closed following management changes.

In February 2019, the OfS initiated a formal probe into matters at De Montfort University. This related to information provided to the OfS by the university and by whistleblowers, and the actions subsequently taken by the university.

The watchdog used its statutory powers to force information for the investigation, identifying issues the OfS says “caused concern”.

“We found weaknesses and failings in the university’s management and governance arrangements which were significant and systemic,” the OfS said.

De Montfort’s vice-chancellor, Prof Dominic Shellard, who had led the university since 2010, resigned following the launch of the investigation.

A public statement from DMU said: “The university acknowledges that its governance was inadequate and that the governing body did not provide sufficient and robust oversight of the university’s leadership, in particular the vice-chancellor. Following the Office for Students’ own investigation, the university and the Office for Students have agreed a number of specific areas where the university’s governance and internal control mechanisms require improvements to strengthen the university’s compliance with the regulatory framework.”

A detailed action plan sets out issues for particular attention, including international travel for the governing body (and spouses), the management of whistleblowing allegations by the governing body and scrutiny for awarding consultancy agreements to members of the governing body.

All DMU governors immediately related to the investigation have left the university, as well as two other independent governors.

This is the start of a process designed to transform the culture and ethos of the university to one of greater openness

The remaining independent governors (excluding any recruited from April/May 2019 onwards) will see out their tenures, excluding handovers, and future tenures will be limited to three years.

DMU has also made its recruitment criteria for hiring governors more robust, and is developing an extensive legal, regulatory and procedural framework.

The university’s statement said: “This is the start of a process designed to transform the culture and ethos of the university to one of greater openness, transparency and genuine engagement.”

Susan Lapworth, director of competition and registration at OfS, said: “Ensuring that there are effective management and governance arrangements in all higher education providers is an essential component of the OfS’s regulatory approach. It is in the interests of students and taxpayers that universities and colleges are well run and the OfS will use the full range of our enforcement powers where necessary to investigate and resolve similar compliance concerns in other universities and other higher education providers.”


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