Highbury College accused of blocking news site from students over £1.4m debt investigation

A COLLEGE has been accused of ‘shocking’ behaviour after it refused access to staff and students to a news site investigating it over a £1.4m legal battle with the Nigerian government.

Thursday, 17th January 2019, 7:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:43 pm
Highbury College have started legal proceedings over a 1.4 million debt from Nigeria PICTURE: Please credit Simon Essex

Highbury College in Portsmouth is currently locked in a legal battle with the Nigerian state as it seeks to recover a debt it says it is owed.

According to minutes from a Highbury College audit committee meeting, the money is owed by the Cross River State Government in Southern Nigeria.

FE Week, an education newspaper which has been investigating the saga, revealed the college has failed to respond to enquiries.

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And according to FE Week, the college has since claimed to its staff through internal emails seen by the news outlet, that ‘much of’ the story is ‘untrue’ and ‘paints a picture of Highbury that we simply do not recognise’.

FE Week told The News that in an unprecedented move, the college has attempted to suppress the investigation from its staff and students by blocking FE Week on its internal computer servers.

‘That is terrible, absolutely shocking,’ said skills minister Anne Milton when she learnt about the action, reported by FE Week.

‘In an organisation that is dealing with young people specifically, restricting access to staff or students or anybody is terrible.

‘I am shocked. The press has to be very careful because they leave themselves open to challenge so there are rules around ensuring the report is accurate.

‘The DfE doesn’t like what FE Week writes sometimes but we do not block information.’

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, added that the move by Highbury ‘sounds astonishing and concerning’.

A spokesperson for Highbury defended the decision. ‘It is college policy to block access to inappropriate websites,’ she told FE Week.

‘In view of this we have blocked FE Week from the college’s internet servers because we do not think students and staff while in college, should be distracted by inaccurate and untrue stories about Highbury which may cause them concern or distress.

‘We have a duty of care.’