Data published by the University of Bedfordshire in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request showed just 1,250 (52 per cent) of 2,371 students enrolled on the Frontline programme for social work between 2014/15 and 2018/19 achieved a qualification.
Through the fast-track training scheme, students can achieve a graduate diploma after a year of study and a Master's after two years. These are awarded by the University of Bedfordshire, which runs the course.
The data prompted criticism of the scheme on social media, but shortly afterwards the university issued a statement saying the information it supplied for the FOI request is "incorrect because we believe we have accidently duplicated course records".
A spokeswoman for the university said the updated figures are due to be released within "the next week or so" and that it is currently carrying out work "to make sure the figures are correct".
Frontline point out that only 1,394 students have started the training course, suggesting the data is significantly flawed.
In a tweet, Frontline spokesman Mark Potter said previous figures released by the Department for Education in February this year are the correct figures related to the course.
We don't recognise these figures, and are clarifying with the UOB. 1394 people have started the Frontline programme to date. The correct figures were released by the DfE earlier this year ⬇️— Mark Potter (@_MarkPotter) August 16, 2019
These state that between 2014 and 2018, a total of 1,002 students started the Frontline programme, and 56 withdrew.
Despite the withdrawal of the FOI data, some social work academics are still concerned over the number of students achieving the Master's qualification.
University of East Anglia social work professor June Thoburn said that even using the DfE figures, it is likely that only around a third of Frontline students complete an MSc qualification. She tweeted:
Even using these entry figures, and assuming U of Beds knows how many MSCs it has awarded to Frontline students, and leaving out the 2018 entrants who will not have had time to complete MSCs. That still means only 35% of Frontline students have completed their MSCs.— June Thoburn (@Junethobu) August 16, 2019
In addition, campaign group Social Work Concern has raised concerns about the "opaqueness" around the release of Frontline data. It tweeted:
UPDATE: @uniofbeds says these figures are wrong and the right ones will be released "in the coming weeks". This raises new questions while others remain. They have the stats so why wait? Why the opaqueness around Frontline retention data? How many have obtained MSc? At what cost? https://t.co/n1pnzk35RP— Social Work Concern (@SWConcern) August 16, 2019
Frontline was launched in 2013, and in January the government announced plans to provide £45m to train an additional 900 social workers.