The University of Greenwich is refusing demands from a student for a refund of fees despite admissions from senior management that she received a "bad deal".
Quality assurance arrangements in its business school broke down when tutors chose to run a training programme independently and without permission from faculty heads, the university has conceded.
Joanna Haywood, one of 11 students on the certificate in training and development course last year, complained about teaching and learning support standards. She was amazed to find the dean responsible for quality within the faculty "was not aware that the course was continuing". And she was astonished when the dean, Mary Spence, admitted that management of the course had been a "complete catastrophe" because "none of the normal channels for quality assurance were undertaken".
The course is now "under review" by the Institute of Personnel and Development, the professional body which validated it.
Ms Haywood, a professional training consultant, described the course, which cost her Pounds 770 to complete, as "spectacularly poor value for money". She claimed tutors left her and other students with three assignments to complete after the end of the course without any support, that she was left waiting for eight months for her results, and that learning materials provided were poor.
After months of pursuing her complaints Ms Haywood received a telephone call from Ms Spence. During the conversation, recorded on an answering machine, the dean confessed she was appalled by the way the course and Ms Haywood's complaints had been handled.
She told Ms Haywood: "The manager responsible for your programme did not seek my permission to run the programme and did not seek my permission to employ the course tutor to do it."
But the university, which is offering to reimburse "reasonable" costs for correspondence and phone calls but not fees, says detailed investigation, which included consultation with the IPD, found there was "no serious flaw in the delivery of the course".
In a statement this week the university said: "Had the course been as unsatisfactory as Ms Haywood suggested, it would have been necessary to consider whether the passes were valid. Had they not been valid, refunds would have been appropriate but the investigation including consultation with the IPD showed that this was not the case."