Tasmac London School of Business, which offered degrees validated by the University of Wales (UoW), ceased trading on Friday leaving hundreds of international students stranded.
The University has set up an ‘email helpline’ to assist hundreds of Tier 4 students from the UoW approved London college which closed suddenly.
The 650 overseas students, many of whom had paid thousands of pounds in fees to the private college just before it went under, are unlikely to see their money again. The Managing Director had left the country.
The UoW said it was ‘working to transfer the students onto courses at other partner colleges’.
Three representatives of the UoW attended meetings with former Tasmac students in London on Monday.
The BBC was told that the meetings were at times “emotional”, with some students said to be angry and others in a state of shock.
Students for the Masters in Business (MBA) course had paid £7,850 in fees for the degree validated by the UoW.
Students on the courses came from countries including India, Nigeria, Cameroon, Syria, Egypt and Ukraine, with the largest group from Nepal.
Sameer Dua, who was the joint Managing Director of Tasmac UK business school, fled the UK at the weekend and spoke to the BBC from India.
Mr Dua said the decision to close the college was the result of changes in UK Tier student visa regulations brought in by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).
He said: “These changes have not only impacted Tasmac, they have impacted many more colleges that could be shut down.
“Most of our students are non-EU students. All these students require visas to come. It became difficult to sustain ourselves.”
The collapse of Tasmac college is the latest difficulty faced by the UoW. Its new Vice Chancellor, Prof Medwin Hughes, announced last week that it would stop validating degrees in the UK or overseas.
Tasmac is extremely unlikely to transfer any… tuition fees towards the new colleges as the company has gone into liquidation in the UK”
A separate BBC investigation for the Week In Week Out programme uncovered a scam where overseas students were helped to cheat their way to UoW validated degrees and visas.
The Metropolitan Police and the UKBA carried out raids following the programme.
The investigation did not involve Tasmac college.
Mr Dua said the academic standards of Tasmac UK had full approval with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).
He said: “We feel terrible. We are working on ensuring that the students are transferred to an alternative collaborative college so that the students can complete the programme they have come to the UK to pursue.”
Asked if the students would get their fees back, Mr Dua repeated that the problems were “sector-wide” but gave no further information.
Staff at Tasmac college in Wembley were called to an emergency meeting last Thursday evening when they were told the college was shutting down immediately. Vans arrived to remove computers and furniture.
Joanna Oman, who was formerly marketing manager for Tasmac School of Business, criticised the school’s directors.
She said: “Tasmac is extremely unlikely to transfer any… tuition fees towards the new colleges as the company has gone into liquidation in the UK.”
Ms Oman said the students’ existing Tier 4 student visas were tied to a place at Tasmac college and it would be very difficult to get a new one.
The UoW was approached by the BBC to answer further questions about the collapse of Tasmac UK but has not responded.
Last week, the UoW issued a statement which said it was in talks with other colleges over the transfer of former Tasmac students.
The statement said: “The university has been in discussions with other collaborative centres to arrange for the 650 students on University of Wales programmes to transfer to programmes at these institutions.
“If students do have to leave the country for any reason the university will offer the opportunity to transfer them on to a distance-learning programme.”
The statement added: “Students also have the option of taking an exit qualification.” Source: BBC.
Out of pocket students will need more than an ’email helpline’ from the University of Wales which approved Tasmac to run degree course on their behalf.
Moving students to other colleges running their degrees may help retain them for the UoW, but the students will still have to pay new fees and bear the cost of renewing their Tier 4 visas.
UoW has not made any statement on whether or not they will be offering their students any financial compensation, as the students could argue that the university’s endorsement of the private college was the very reason they were studying at Tasmac.
To make matters worse, following the recent visa changes students renewing visas at alternative private colleges will not be allowed to work or sponsor their dependants.
Bison UK Immigration Adviser Cynthia Barker was saddened by the news and said she is offering free immigration advice consultations for any students affected by the closure of their college. She said:
‘Private colleges are being suspended by the UKBA or closing at an alarming rate following several Tier 4 student visa changes this year. Hardly a day goes by without a student calling me to say that their college has closed and the owners disappeared leaving them stranded after paying thousands of pounds in fees.
‘The July 4 student visa changes means that if a non-EU student renews visa with a private college or changes college after 4 July 2011, they will not be able to work or sponsor their dependants.’
The UK Border Agency has implemented major changes to the Tier 4 student route of the points-based system, which came into effect on 4 July 2011 and have badly hit private college.
The Government has revised the Immigration Rules relating to Tier 4 in order to:
- restrict work entitlements, by only allowing students sponsored by higher education institutions (HEIs) and publicly funded further education colleges to work part-time during term time and full-time during vacations;
- restrict sponsorship of dependants to those of students sponsored by HEIs on postgraduate courses lasting 12 months or longer, and of government-sponsored students on courses lasting longer than 6 months;
- require institutions to confirm that courses represent genuine academic progression from any previous courses studied by the student in the UK; and
- create a streamlined application process for low-risk nationals sponsored by Highly Trusted sponsors.
The agency said:
‘These changes are aimed at delivering a strong migration system which tackles immigration abuse while allowing genuine students to study at genuine colleges.’
However, many private college owners are protesting that they are no longer competing with Government owned institutuions and UK Universities on a level playing field.
Tasmac students are clearly ‘genuine students’ who through no fault of theirs now find themselves in a extremely disadvantaged position.
Bijal Shah, of Licensed Insolvency Practitioner’s RE 10, has announced a further creditors meeting, to be held at 11am on 3 November at:
Creditors and students are strongly advised to attend the meeting and ask where over £4 million paid to the college in upfront fees has gone.
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