Overseas students consider legal action against college
By Andrew Denholm
The Herald (U.K.), December 3, 2009
It is a trail that leads from meetings with immigration agents in rented hotel rooms across the Indian sub-continent to a college 'campus' on a business park on the eastern outskirts of Edinburgh.
As a result of many such meetings in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh where the benefits of a Scottish education are routinely championed hundreds of students have arrived at the Niddrie campus of the Edinburgh School of Business over the past few months seeking a passport to a better world.
For some, that passport may be a student visa that allows them to live and work in Scotland, earning better wages than they can command at home.
For many more, the promise of accredited business, hospitality or tourism qualifications offers the chance of genuine advancement to a more prestigious UK university or a stepping stone to a well-paid job in their homeland.
Now, however, many students from the Edinburgh School of Business are considering legal action after concerns were raised about the credibility of the colleges Advanced Diploma in Business.
Nearly 130 students from the privately run college have paid up to 5500 each to take the two-year qualification on the understanding it was about to be accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and would lead to further study at Glasgow Caledonian University.
However, The Herald has discovered that, although SQA officials have been considering the course for accreditation, it is not currently recognised. Students embarking on the qualification before it is given accreditation cannot be awarded it retrospectively, officials said.
In addition, a spokeswoman for Glasgow Caledonian said there was also no immediate likelihood of an agreement with the university.
Last night, Zeeshan Rahat, 22, from Lahore, who paid 2500 for the two-year diploma, said he thought the course was 'a joke'.
'It was not a good course. Every few days we would get different tutors. They used to come into the class, ask us what we had been studying and then try and carry on, but it was impossible.
'There wasnt any proper course materials and there were no textbooks. A business diploma is supposed to be a very important certificate, but I didnt learn anything new in all the time I was there.'
Jigesh Patel, 23, from Gujarat, in India, who paid 4000 to study the business diploma, is also disappointed and wants his money back.
'I came to Scotland because of the great reputation of Scottish education and because I wanted to make a future for myself,' he said.
Mr Patel was particularly surprised when he arrived in Niddrie because an immigration agent advertising the college in Gujarat showed him a picture of Edinburgh Castle.
'The agent told me it was the college campus. It was very disappointing.'
The concerns of the students were heightened following a visit to the college by officials from the UK Border Agency, which resulted in a suspension to its licence to bring in overseas students.
However, officials at the college have refuted all the allegations and said the business course was properly taught by trained lecturers and that all necessary material was available online.
Gordon Wright, the college principal, also questioned the actions of Glasgow Caledonian and the SQA for 'backing away' from his organisation.
'We entered in good faith into negotiations with SQA and Scottish universities and we have always informed our students as to the validation of the courses they are undertaking,' he said.
'Our website clearly states some of our courses are subject to approval and we understood from the SQA that this was a legitimate thing to do. We also believe we can get credit for prior learning.'
However, there are also wider concerns about the involvement of the SQA in considering giving accreditation to a qualification prepared by a private college that has been running for little more than a year.
A spokesman for Scotlands Colleges, which represents college principals, said: 'We expect that all awarding bodies should have the necessary systems in place to ensure high-quality education is provided by the private providers they are accrediting particularly those recruiting students from overseas.'