Exclusive - University of Brighton suffers up to £3.7 million financial fraud

Vice-Chancellor criticises union leadership for publication of details.

Exclusive - University of Brighton suffers up to £3.7 million financial fraud
Source: Michael John Wilson

A case of serious financial fraud has been perpetrated against the University of Brighton, The Seagull can report.

The information was circulated in a Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) newsletter, leading to a statement from the Vice-Chancellor being published in an internal newsletter. This statement criticised the UCU leadership for sharing the information with their members, but admitted the fraud and stated that an investigation had been conducted and criminal proceedings have been brought. The University of Brighton UCU branch has recently been involved in industrial action over pay and conditions.

According to the statements seen by The Seagull, the fraud was carried out over a number of years but identified by the University in November 2021, at which point the relevant authorities were notified and an independent forensic accountant brought in to investigate. The investigation was concluded by January of 2022 to the satisfaction of the University's Board of Governors' Audit Committee.

While it is known that a court case to determine responsibility is pending, the perpetrator of the fraud, and the precise amount involved, remains unknown.

The union were told that this will not have any effect on the University's spending plans, though the University's accounts would require adjustment. The Seagull understands that the amount by which the University was defrauded, known to investigators but not yet revealed, could be up to £3.7 million, which is the University's materiality threshold (an accounting term indicating whether the amount in question will threaten the overall integrity of the accounts being audited).

When approached for comment, the University referred us to the Vice-Chancellor's statement, which indicated that a further statement would be made on the conclusion of criminal proceedings. The University of Brighton UCU branch have also been contacted for comment, which will be added to the online version of this article if forthcoming.