Students demand fee refund

August 18, 1995

Mature students taking a counselling certificate are demanding compensation from Glasgow Caledonian University Company for breach of contract over their course.

The students, who include a nun, a GP, a prison officer and a nurse, enrolled last October on a part-time eight-month course which was advertised as validated by the Confederation of Scottish Counselling Agencies.

But the confederation has said that the course, taught by a different set of tutors since New Year, was validated only seven weeks ago. The students' certificates were only being prepared last week.

Some students had sought a fees refund earlier this year, complaining that the syllabus was altered and that the Pounds 885 course was 15 hours short. The university company told them in April that reimbursement was not normal since the course had COSCA validation.

John Phillips, vice principal and chief executive of the university company, said there was "a slight confusion" as to whether COSCA had accredited the course at that point because of staff changes. He defended the retrospective validation, saying the coursework had been available for investigation.

But the British Association for Counselling, the United Kingdom's leading counselling body, said its own recognition of courses could not be retrospective.

Professor Phillips agreed the course had been 15 hours short, but said very intensive weekend sessions had more than compensated. "It's highly unfortunate that the students had to wait longer for final confirmation than any of us had hoped, but they will get COSCA certificates," he said.

But some students are still pressing for compensation. Sister Denise Dunn, a senior training officer for adults with learning difficulties, said: "The course was not what we signed up to do. There was no discussion with the university company about the changes and whether these were acceptable to the students."

Course literature said it would cover specific counselling practices, but it turned into a more basic, general course, she said.

Vincent Chudy, manager of the Glasgow Citizens' Advice Bureau which has been representing the students, said: "I'm surprised the course has been accredited all of a sudden." Nothing had happened, despite the students' complaints, until the CAB had threatened to take legal action, he said.

Agnes Dunlop, COSCA's training officer, said it had considered the students' complaints in its validation process.

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