UK: We feel duped by TASMAC, say Indian students

I had been working in Dubai for the last few years [says Jagdeep Singh Sadal] and my company said a masters degree would give me better opportunities. From TASMAC (Training and Advanced Studies in Management and Communications) in Pune, India, I was diverted from going to Canterbury Christchurch University in the UK, which I also looked at.

TASMAC marketing is quite aggressive. Indians mortgage their homes to study in Britain. By closing down the college we are left with nowhere to go.

TASMAC had a way of making you stay longer than you needed to.

For example, they said my English was not good enough and that I had to take the EAP (English for Academic Purposes), which is their own course and not recognised anywhere else. There were 43 students in two classes in 2010 doing EAP. But of the 43 only three passed. If you fail the exam you have to repay the exam fee of £75 and the retake costs £200. Only 12 students passed the second exam.

After that they said I had to do a 'masters qualifying programme', although they had already accepted me onto the 12-month MBA. The masters qualifying programme lasted three months and the EAP had already lasted three moths so I had been at TAMAC for six months and had not even started the MBA that I had applied to do.

In my view this was just their way of making money out of us.

I was so annoyed I had a meeting with Prashant Dua, the head of TASMAC, six month ago and told him I didn't want to continue and that I was getting admission to (publicly-funded) Middlesex University.

There was already a rumour going around three months ago that TASMAC could be shut down. When I went to Dua and had a face-to-face meeting, I told him I had heard these rumours. He said that I should not spread rumours and that I should just concentrate on my studies.

TASMAC did not inform students until 6 October at 11.45pm by email that they were going to cease operations due to UK Border Agency changes [says Suneet Patel].

The next day, on 7 October, the campus was locked. The same note that we got by email was posted on the Wembley Campus and the Kingsbury Campus [on the outskirts of London]. We were not allowed inside. There were trucks loading up furniture and other things. They were taking everything away.

On Monday 10 October a meeting had already been organised for the MBA students. At Holborn College. Two people from the University of Wales [which validated TASMAC degrees] were also there. We have no idea how they managed to arrange this almost overnight if they did not know that TASMAC was shutting down until 6 October.

When we went to Holborn College [which is run by the private education company Kaplan Financial] on 10 October there were leaflets lying around on the seats about the Holborn MBA course. It was titled the 'TASMAC Closure Student Rescue Plan' for MBA students.

It was going to be £800 (US$1,260) per semester. But we had already paid thousands of pounds! This money, £800, was supposedly a 70% discount on the Holborn fees. But we don't see why we should pay again when we have already paid.

Although the University of Wales representatives were there, they did not say anything and for every question we asked them they only said 'I don't know'. We did not get any support from the University of Wales.

Some of the students have been offered places back in India [Where TASMAC has campuses in Pune and Bangalore], but without offering any refunds on the money that we have paid in England, even though the courses in India are much cheaper than those in London.

This is also not an option for students from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Cambodia, Macedonia or Ukraine - there are many nationalities affected by the TASMAC closure.

People have no idea what to do or where to go. We are all under so much stress. Some of them had even paid their rent through TASMAC in advance and now they have to vacate the property. Although TASMAC took the money they did not pass it on to the landlords. These students will be homeless. What will they do?

Some of us Indian students contacted the Indian High Commission in London that very first day [7 October]. Some of the Indian students were even threatening to go on hunger strike outside the High Commission. We went over there to ask them to speak to UKBA to try to relax the situation for TASMAC students. The Indian ministry of External Affairs was also informed.

But TASMAC had given press briefings in India in which they kept on saying the University of Wales and the director of TASMAC were trying to help the stranded students get admission in different colleges so that their studies are not disrupted.

But they are not telling anyone about these extra fees these other colleges want to charge us. Holborn does not even have UKBA 'highly trusted' status. They must get it by 2012. What if they are turned down? If they shut down who is going to take the responsibility again?

The publicly-funded institutions here do not accept the TASMAC credits. Only one [public] university is accepting us to begin in February but they are asking us for £800 per subject. I have some five subjects still to complete plus my dissertation.

But what about those who had only just started? It will be a lot of money for them. Many of us chose a private college because they are cheaper for international students than the publicly-funded universities. Especially MBAs are very, very expensive for international students.

We feel cheated by TASMAC.

But we do not know what our future is when we cannot transfer our credits to other universities and private colleges want to charge us again. UKBA only allows us to stay 60 days if we are not on a course. Then we must leave, so there is additional stress.

We would like to continue our degrees here in London. The cost is high but with the post-study work entitlement, which many of us have [they came before it was discontinued in July 2011] we can work here and recover some of the money before we go back home. It is very difficult for some TASMAC students who rented out their home in their own country and used the money to pay to come here.

* Jagdeep Singh Sadal and Suneet Patel, who were enrolled on the TASMAC MBA course in London. They were talking to University World News Asia Editor Yojana Sharma.

* Suneet Patel is a pseudonym. The student did not want his name used, but University World News met with him, knows his name and knows he was a student at TASMAC.