Franchise brochures jumped gun

July 12, 1996

Students pay towards their higher education and want value for money. THES reporters look at the university appeals system and what happens when degree courses are not all they were advertised to be. Southampton Institute has blasted a further education college over an inaccurate publicity brochure circulated in India.

Wigan and Leigh College has admitted that claims in the brochure that it ran courses leading to an MBA awarded by Southampton Institute and accredited by Nottingham Trent University were totally incorrect.

The error had arisen because the College's Indian partner, Wigan and Leigh College (India) Ltd, had assumed that discussions with Southampton over possible future arrangements for awarding qualificiations would result in an agreement, the college said.

But Southampton says it had only been talking to Wigan and Leigh about BA business studies courses, not MBAs, and no agreement had been reached.

A spokesman for the institute said: "We are very disappointed at the lack of consultation regarding this matter. There have been no arrangements with Wigan and Leigh to offer degree courses in India or elsewhere overseas. Southampton Institute takes any matters of this kind very seriously, and will be contacting Wigan and Leigh concerning the misinformation they have published in their promotional material."

A Nottingham Trent University spokesman added that the publicity literature was "unfortunate", and the university was awaiting comments from Southampton in the light of its investigations. The brochure had been distributed by Wigan's Indian company, backed by about Pounds 1 million in private cash, as part of a bid to attract franchisees to back its plan to establish three distance-learning centres.

It had attracted the attention of the British Council in India, which had expressed concerns about the robustness of quality controls in "such an ambitious and wide sub-franchising network".

But this week Frank Brogan, Wigan and Leigh's vice principal for business development, claimed the British Council had been supportive of the college's plans which included involving the council in its quality assurance arrangements.

"Our Indian partner jumped the gun in publishing that particular section of the brochure. We are not even looking at MBAs at this moment in time. We have apologised to Southampton, and we are very concerned to ensure we get this right," he added.

David Elliott, head of education promotion for the British Council, said the case demonstrated the need for institutions to follow the Higher Education Quality Council's new code for overseas collaborative links. "It is to be hoped that the HEQC will be able to help the sector police itself," he said.

HEQC said it was not in a position to become involved unless an agreement had been reached on awarding and accrediting qualifications.

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