It was heartening to see that India's Tata Group, with its diversified interests in Tea (Tetley), Steel (Corus) and Automobile (Jaguar and Land Rover), has become Britain's biggest manufacturing business. The International press took this as evidence of a resurgent India, projecting the power and the confidence of the Indian businesses to play on the world stage, particularly in Britain.
However, the recent closure of TASMAC, an Indian Education company which opened its London campus apparently to take advantage of student interests in British Higher Education aided by easy student visas, tells another story: That of opportunism and amateurism of Indian businesses not fit to play at the international stage.
TASMAC is a sizable Indian company with three or more campuses in India, offering a range of degree and diploma programmes. Their London campus had 650 students as reported, all of whom had paid them in advance. In any sense, this should not be considered as a small fly-by-night operation. In fact, TASMAC has not closed its Indian businesses, and it is trying to protect its reputation in India blaming UK Border Agency for its sudden closure.
This is indeed completely untrue. The UKBA did nothing to close down its operations. The visa changes, however problematic, were in the cards for a long time coming and it does not just affect TASMAC, but all other private colleges in the UK. While the visa changes may stem the flow of new students, it has done nothing to stop the services being provided to students who have already paid the full fees. The TASMAC liquidation is a cynical and opportunistic attempt to defraud vulnerable students. Sadly, while many other private colleges are taking the hit and continuing to service their students even with mounting operating losses, TASMAC's example will set a bad precedent which would be used to portray the entire For Profit Education industry in a bad light. There is already talk about a guarantee being imposed on For Profit providers (one fails to see why such guarantees should not be applicable to Public Providers), which would burden the sector even further.
TASMAC indeed is legally right: After siphoning off all the money that the students have paid in advance, they went into liquidation. However, education is not like any other business and a more responsible behaviour is expected of the providers. It is not about being legally right, but morally responsible, and indeed TASMAC has completely failed its students and the Education business community as a whole. It is outrageous to see that it believes that it can continue to mislead the students in India, claiming that its closure has something to do with visa regulations, and think that its Indian business can go on as usual.
In the last few days, I have been in touch with some TASMAC students. This is because we wanted to stand by the students, though we had very little prospect of getting paid anything at all for doing so. This was about servicing disenfranchised students and show some responsibility that we, in the For Profit Education sector, must show to be counted. Indeed, our efforts so far have been hampered by the lack of direction from the accrediting university, which, as a good example of why the Public Universities are not up to the job, was incommunicado about how the crisis could be handled. After we volunteered to help, we expected to be told what we need to do: Indeed, these students were doing various courses and appropriate credit transfer arrangements have to be worked out with the university. This would have almost surely happened in a private sector business scenario. However, not so in this case, and after waiting to hear from the university, we had to assume that some alternative arrangement must have been made, only to learn from the students that they were completely clueless about any such arrangement.
We have decided to ask the University yet again if any assistance is needed, and we have decided to do all it takes to protect the reputation of the British For Profit Education sector. Indeed, we are quite a small college in relative terms and what we can do is quite limited. However, the lesson I learned here is that in an industry full of unscrupulous businessmen and indifferent public universities, the only thing we can do is be foolish enough to stand up and be counted when needed.
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