LMU repeats false claim of ‘65% student support’ as ‘key driver’ of plan

25 November 2015

Vice-Chancellor John Raftery repeatedly claims that 65% of London Met students support his ‘One Campus, One Community’ plan.

The survey on which he bases the figure had 419 respondents, of whom a bare 59 (14%) were at the Cass. London Met has about 12,000 students altogether. That means the survey consulted a little over 3% of the total studentship.

The questions asked were of a general and often mundane nature, asking, for example, if students think the toilets are clean enough. Among them, one question asked whether students would like a ‘modern new campus’. There was no indication of where that campus might be, nor any suggestion that closures and sell-offs were implied.

The Student Union, who conducted the survey, were unaware of what use the results would be put to, and were also unaware at the time of Project Oak Tree.

The survey was undertaken as part of the consultation process for London Met’s Strategic Plan 2015-2020. It is referred to by the university in its presentation of its strategic plan as ‘clipboard research’, and again, in the minutes of the 12 May 2015 Board of Governors meeting, as ‘qualitative “clipboard” research’.

In their 12 October press release announcing the ‘One Campus, One Community’ plan, London Met cites this qualitative research as ‘the key driver’ for the plan. Were that true, it would be evidence of extreme irresponsibility on the part of London Met’s governors and their advisors at Ernst & Young. To base a multi-million pound decision, affecting the future shape of the university, the courses it offers, faculty job cuts and an impoverishment of student experience, on ‘qualitative clipboard research’ would be appalling negligence. However, a look at the minutes of the Board of Governors meetings makes it clear that students’ opinions are taken into consideration only to the extent that they can be a useful marketing tool, and the key drivers were in fact quite other.

From the minutes of the Board of Governors meeting 12 May 2015:

“29. A range of factors would underpin the strategic decisions required. These included: defining a realistic and sustainable student number target; ‘brand’ issues, including the significance of the location of Faculties and their ties with areas or other institutions; a detailed, medium-term transition plan, which would address a range of issues from the practicalities of relocation to public relations; the approach to financing the project, [REDACTED s. 43(2 FoIA) commercially sensitive] and the impact all these factors would have on the student experience whilst the transformation was taking place.”

A new survey conducted by the Student Union in the last few weeks, with nearly twice as many students responding, has 89% of Cass respondents opposed to the move, and only a minority of those at Holloway Road supportive of it. On 24 November, after the new results were published, an article was published in Dezeen which again reported that London Metropolitan University said ‘that the decision to centralise its faculties was driven by a survey that found that 65 per cent of current students would prefer a single campus’. If LMU repeats the claim of 65% student support as the driver of the One Campus plan, it must be called out as a lie.