No 16 The relationship between the UoW: TSD London Campus, the London Executive Business School Ltd and UWTSD Learning Centres Ltd

The relationship between the UoW: TSD London Campus, the London Executive Business School Ltd and UWTSD Learning Centres Ltd

Blogs 11, 12 and 13 told of the relationship between the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David (TSD) and the College of Technology London and the subsequent establishment of the TSD London Campus specifically for overseas students.   There was an enormous investment in the establishment of the London Campus whilst at the same time TSD were getting rid of academic staff half way through the academic year at their home base in Lampeter.   Student enrolment for courses at the London Campus is sub-contracted to the London Executive Business School Ltd

It now appears that there is another company involved with the London Campus, the UWTSD Learning Centres Ltd which is a company which was set up by TSD and has as its Directors, Medwin Hughes, Catrin Eluned Thomas (the Pro-Vice Chancellor Academic) and Gwyndaf Tobias (the Pro-Vice Chancellor Finance and Resources) .   It was established as a private company limited by shares on 18 November 2011and has one nominal £1 share held by the UoW:TSD. 

On 2 March 2012 this company took out a lease on Unit 3, Angel Wharf, 57 Eagle Wharf Road, London which is the location of the London Campus.   The landlord with whom the lease was agreed was the London Executive Business School Ltd.   How convenient.   The landlord of the premises of the London Campus also gets the contract to handle all the recruitment of students.   The lease was handled by the legal giants Eversheds, their London office and not the Cardiff office, and the “initial deposit” was £9,600.   

The lease was signed just in time to take the first intake of students at the London Campus, the students who had not completed their courses because of the termination of the agreement between TSD and the College of Technology London.   It will be interesting to see how the activities of UWTSD Learning Centres Ltd will be reported in the next set of accounts for TSD.   The current published Financial Statement for UOW:TSD is for the year up to 31 July 2011.

The London Executive Business School Ltd was established on 14 January 2011, with initially three Directors, but since 28 September 2012 there has been only one Director, Nikolaos Tsorakidis.   The company has 100 shares with 30 shares held by Audsin Mohana Dhas Devadas, 19 shares held by Christos Plegas and the majority shareholder is Nikoloas Tsorakidis with 51 shares.   The registered office is 105 St Peter’s Street, St Albans.

Another company registered at this St Albans address is Omega Sail UK Limited which is company providing sailing holidays.   The company was established in December 2009 with two directors, Nikolaos Tsorakidis and Christos Plegas.

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No 15: All contributions welcomed – to get to the truth

All contributions welcomed – to get at the truth

In the last Blog I responded to the comments posted by OG and the comments were very welcome as they’ve added to the purpose of this blog which is to try to disclose the truth about what’s going on at the University and its potential partner, the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David.   Sorry I was wrong to use the word “potential partner”.   TSD is, of course, the university which intends to swallow the University of Wales.   I’ve explained how I’ve been waiting for 5 and 4 months respectively for the minutes of the meetings of their governing bodies from these two universities.    And I thought that one of the guiding principles of a university was “truth”.    How wrong one can be!

The only minutes of a University Council meeting on the UoW website has now been removed.   The UoW website did actually have minutes of meetings of the Academic Board during 2011 until recently but they have now disappeared.    The website was inaccessible for a couple of days earlier this week.    Was this when they were busy removing the records so as to make it more difficult for people interested in the truth?    Were they removing the records on the instructions of the Chief Executive and the University Council?  

On the website go to “About us”, “Freedom of Information”, “How we make decisions” and then “Minutes from Council, Academic Boards and other Committees”.    You will now find a page showing “University Council” and “Academic Board”.    Click on either of these and you’ll get the answer “The resource cannot be found”.

Fortunately, I kept notes of some of those Academic Board minutes and they confirm the comments by OG.    Here is an extract from the minutes of an Academic Board meeting held at the UoW Newport on 18 February 2011: 

Strategic Plan

1856 – that at its meeting on 11 February 2011, Council had agreed nem con to support a proposed merger between the University of Wales and University of Wales Trinity Saint David under the Royal Charter of the University of Wales, which would be followed by the incorporation of Swansea Metropolitan University and University of Wales Institute, Cardiff into the merged institution.

1857    The Board heard that the University of Wales Newport and Glyndŵr University had also been invited to join the merged institution.

1858    The Board noted that it was intended that the new University of Wales would be operational by August 2012”

The lesson here is that if you see any UoW records, make sure you take a copy before the University managers take action to destroy them.   

The Academic Board would have reported to the University Council and one can imagine that the records of University Council meetings were similar and as described by OG.     

OG has now sent in a second comment which is most helpful.   I shall be studying the Information Commissioner’s Office website very carefully and will report progress.   I sent reminder emails to both universities at the beginning of the week and will wait for a few days for a response before taking up OG’s advice.

A couple of weeks ago there was a contribution from Dave who was following an e-learning MBA with RDI.   I don’t know anything about RDI but I’ve since visited their website.   They provide e-learning programmes to enable students to study for an MBA, or another degree, from a University named on the website.    The UoW is not named but this is probably because they no longer accept any new students.  If a student had enrolled on such a programme leading to a UoW degree then my understanding of the letter dated 5 September 2012 sent by the Chief Executive to Education Minister Leighton Andrews is that they would be allowed to complete their course.      I would be grateful if Dave could provide further information. 

Any contributions from other people will be very welcome as the whole purpose of this blog is to expose the truth in order that we all get a better picture of what’s going on.  

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No 14: Freedom of Information Requests – still waiting 5 months on!

Freedom of Information Requests – still waiting 5 months on! 

I was delighted to receive the interesting and valuable comments from OG which can be viewed by clicking on the link on the right of this page.   He gives an interesting insight into what has been going on at the meetings of the University Council regarding possible merger options during the year up to the fatal meeting of 21 October 2011 when the Council took its illegal decision to both dissolve the University and to merge.

The two links given by OG give an interesting insight.   It was really interesting to learn from an insider that there was a dispute as to who had the right to vote on the merger issue and that it was possible that the staff representative was sent out of the meeting.   Incredible!   Who could have a greater interest in the future of the University than a member of the University staff? 

Freedom of Information Request to the University of Wales

OG very sensibly suggests that I should ask for copies of all the University Council minutes.   Well, I have asked for copies of the minutes through a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request which I originally sent on 9 September 2012.    There was an exchange of emails to clarify the issues and I received a message on 12 October 2012 to say that I would receive a reply within 20 days.    I’d sent 7 questions and I received replies to Questions 3, 6, 7 and 8 on 12 December 2012 and 1 February 2013 I received a reply to Question 5 and I had received a general reply to Question 4. 

I’ve already referred to some of these replies in earlier Blogs.  In Blog No 2, I quoted the reply to Question 3 which confirmed that the University had not consulted with its Graduates, as it is required to do by Statute, before taking the critical decision on 21 October 2011.   It is this failure that makes the decision invalid.

In Blog No 5, I quoted the reply I received on the Collaborative Centres and in Blog No 6, I quoted the reply on what happened to the funds of the Guild of Graduates to which we all became members on graduation.   

My first request was for copies of the minutes of the University Council and 5 months on I’m still waiting to receive them!    One would expect any such information to be available on the website.    Until recently the minutes of a meeting in 2010 were on the website but on checking today I found that this has now disappeared! 

Freedom of Information Request to the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David

On 8 November 2012 I sent a similar request to the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David (TSD) and on 13 November I was promised a reply within 20 days which is the standard timescale for a reply to a FOI request.   On 10 December 2012 I received a message of apology stating that the response would take a further 6 week which would have been the week starting 21 January 2013.    Again, after 4 months, I’m still waiting!

Freedom of Information Request to Swansea Metropolitan University

Contrast these responses to what happened when I made the same request to Swansea Metropolitan University.    I sent the request on 8 November 2012.    On 14 November I was promised that the information would be received within 20 days and I received the information on 6 December 2012, well within the 20 days.     Clearly, Swansea Metropolitan has an effective and efficient administration and I very much hope that this will continue following its merger with TSD.

But what on earth are they doing at the University of Wales and at TSD?     Have they actually been keeping minutes of the Council meetings?    OG’s comments suggest that the meetings were rather chaotic.   Perhaps it was difficult to keep accurate minutes?    I can’t understand why the minutes aren’t readily available to be sent out as were the minutes of the governing body of Swansea Metropolitan.    The incredible delay gives rise to the suspicion that they are busy at both the University of Wales and at TSD doctoring the minutes before they make them public!

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No 13: UoW: Trinity Saint David – More on the London Campus

More about the London Campus 

In Blog No 12 I explained how the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David (TSD) had set up a London Campus specifically to cater for the overseas students who had previously been following TSD validated programmes at the private College of Technology London (CTL) following the acrimonious termination of the relationship between the Welsh University and its collaborative partner. 

There was, of course, a second objective in establishing the London Campus which was “also for the further development of UWTSD”.    The first intake in April 2012 was confined to former students from CTL but in October/November 2012 there was a new general intake and a further new intake was expected in February 2013.   This will be the future pattern of regular new intakes envisaged in the Business Plan.

The London campus offers MBA courses offered by the University’s School of Business.  The London Campus “is managed by its Principal who is supported by staff on both the London and Wales’ campuses.”  The relationship between the London Campus Principal and the Head of School of Business is not clear.  The London Campus MBA Prospectus 2012/13 included 6 MBA programmes of which 5 are also offered at the Lampeter Campus.   It’s clear that staff from the Lampeter Campus can support the delivery of these programmes and it was clearly quite an achievement to establish 5 MBA courses in London by October 2012 although these are presumably the same courses as those offered at Lampeter.

MBA Banking and Finance

The sixth programme offered at the London Campus was an MBA in Banking and Finance which is not a programme which is currently offered at the Lampeter Campus.   The staff for this programme must have been recruited specifically to develop this new programme in order to have everything prepared for its effective delivery by October 2012.    This must have been an enormous investment.   The location of the London Campus is, of course, highly convenient for the participation of specialist part time staff working in the banking and finance sector.

Student recruitment for the London Campus is being handled by an agency, LEB or to give them their full name, London Executive Business School Ltd; a company (Reg. No. 07493932) registered in January 2011 with a prestigious address in Holborn.   The website gives the impression that the School has been established to deliver business programmes but it appears that the company’s only current activity is to service the requirements of the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David.   LEB deals with all the overseas recruitment for the London Campus.   The website contains the statement:

 “We offer undergraduate and post graduate pre-sessional programmes, pre-sessional English courses for academic purpose, semester and summer study abroad programmes, short courses and executive education.

On completion of the LEB pre-sessional MBA program students become eligible to progress on to the Trinity St David: University of Wales MBA”   

There are no details of these pre-sessional programmes nor of the undergraduate courses and I do hope that they get the name of the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David correct in their correspondence with students! 

The current London Campus lists 10 MBA programmes which are presumably being offered to the new intake in October/November 2013.   The University is clearly investing heavily in the development of the London Campus!   One must ask whether the development of a London Campus specifically for overseas students is a priority for a Welsh University.    Is this why universities were established in Wales?   The students at the Lampeter Campus who were protesting against the sacking of their lecturers in the middle of their Academic Year should be questioning their University’s investment priorities.

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No.12: UoW: Trinity Saint David – The London Campus

UoW: Trinity Saint David – The London Campus

 Towards the end of 2012 I noticed on the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David website that there was, in addition to the Carmarthen Campus and Lampeter Campus, mention of a London Campus.  I wondered why a Welsh University had established a London Campus so I started investigating and found that this was a campus established specifically for overseas students. 

I made a Freedom of Information request and found that the London Campus had been established as a direct result of the termination of the relationship with the private college, the “College of Technology London” (CTL) which I discussed in Blog No. 11.    I was told that “the primary drivers for establishing the London Campus were to ensure the University’s duty of care to students enrolled on University programmes …….. and also for the further development of UWTSD”.     The desire to ensure the duty of care to the students was, of course, admirable. 

It was confirmed that the partnership with CTL had been terminated in November 2011 and it appears that the students were able to continue and complete examinations at the end of the semester in February 2012.   The former CTL students were enrolled during a planned six week period between March and April 2012 and were then able to continue their course at the new UoW: TSD London Campus.   Only former CTL students were enrolled at this stage.

I asked how the University had managed to enrol sufficient suitably qualified staff at such short notice and was told that they followed their standard recruitment processes and sufficient suitably qualified and experienced staff were appointed following interviews in London.  Some of the appointed staff were previously employed by College of Technology London, which was the college were there had been problems. 

I was told that “the University engaged in extensive planning processes to enable the establishment, operation and management of the new London campus.”   This was a huge task in such a short timescale.  I was told that “a project group comprising relevant support professionals was set up to establish the campus in line with best practice” and  “the London Campus is managed by its Principal who is supported by staff on both the London and Wales’ campuses.  The London campus has the same regulatory and administrative procedures that are applicable on any other campus.”    

I asked whether a Business Plan had been prepared for the establishment of the London Campus so as to ensure its financial viability and the quality of the education provided.   I was told that a Business Plan had been prepared.    I was pleased to hear this but I was concerned in view of the student protest that took place on the Lampeter Campus just over a week ago.    The University had dismissed staff at the Lampeter Campus in the middle of the academic year which is a sign of very poor business planning.    I fully understand that organisations have to down-size sometimes but a well-managed educational establishment would make major staff changes at the end of an academic year.     If the University couldn’t prepare a robust Business Plan for the well-established Lampeter Campus how could they prepare a robust business Plan for the new venture, the London Campus?

It takes a huge investment to establish an educational centre in London, renting the premises, adaptations and furniture, office and educational IT equipment, library facilities etc.   I asked how the London Campus had been funded and was told that it “was funded from University reserves generated by international student fees in order to honour the obligations to students enrolled on University programmes.”    One must also remember that the secondary objective stated in the first answer was “and also for the further development of UWTSD”.   

The students who were protesting at the Lampeter Campus over the sacking of their lecturers, presumably because of the lack of funds, should consider the University’s priorities.

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No 11: College of Technology London

College of Technology London

In Blog No.7 I explained how I had started investigating the collaborative relationships of the University of Wales in October 2011 and that I had then found that the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David (UW:TSD) also had numerous similar relationships with private colleges. In particular, I investigated the relationships with “College of Technology London” and “Grafton College” where UW:TSD was validating degrees. I wrote to the TSD Vice-Chancellor, Prof Medwin Hughes, raising issues regarding these relationships.

In a letter dated 21 November 2011 Prof Hughes stated that one of his first actions on taking the post of Vice-Chancellor in November 2010 was to examine and shut down these partnerships. However, this would be a process that would respect the legal agreements and the need to ensure that the interests of the students were protected. He said that the process had started in 2010 and that the partnership with these colleges had now come to an end. I welcomed this and felt that Prof Hughes had taken the correct decision.

I happened to look at the “College of Technology London” (CTL) website again towards the end of January 2012 and was surprised to find a declaration, dated 5 December 2011. This statement declared that it was CTL who decided to terminate the agreement with UW:TSD and did so on 16 November 2011. This was contrary to what I’d been told and the reason for the termination, according to CTL, was:

For over 18 months CTL has expressed its concerns over poor quality assurance and administrative standards at TSD. TSD has been unable to provide adequate explanations for its poor standards or give CTL any confidence in adequate future improvement.”

The declaration goes on to expand on this and the Statement ends:

Eventually CTL was forced to conclude that the University was unable to deliver an acceptable level of performance and that in order to safeguard its own standards and commitment to students, there was no alternative but to bring the partnership with the University to an end.

CTL would like to sincerely thank its staff for all their support and hard work throughout this partnership. CTL will now seek a new academic partners, and trusts that TSD honours its obligations to its existing students at CTL.”

There are always two sides to every story but clearly there was a bitter end to this relationship.

In October 2012 there was a merger between UW:TSD and Swansea Metropolitan University. In their preparations for this merger the relationship between UW:TSD and CTL was one of the issues that was examined by the Board of Governors of Swansea Metropolitan University. In the minutes of the Board’s meeting on 11 April 2012 under the heading “Due Diligence Considerations” it was reported:

That the concerns re. UWTSD College of Technology London had been resolved

This gives confidence that Swansea Metropolitan University was investigating all the implications before committing themselves to the merger.

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No 10: Student protest at the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David

Last Friday, 8 February 2013, students at the Lampeter Campus of the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David (TSD) conducted a sit-in protest.  They were protesting against staffing cuts which they claimed were having a detrimental effect on their courses and studies.   The protest was well covered on the Welsh-language Golwg website, www.golwg360.com, by BBC Radio Cymru and the Welsh language TV news and also on the BBC’s Welsh language news pages.    Strangely, there was no mention on the BBC’s English language services.  

There have been rumours about staffing cuts at the Lampeter Campus since before Christmas and the rumours were confirmed on the BBC Newyddion website on 3 January.  The student protest on Friday is the first public confirmation that staffing cuts are being implemented.   I saw one student being interviewed saying that his personal tutor had been dismissed and that there were many other students in the same position.   He felt that his education had been affected as he faced his degree examinations. 

Students said that they understood that during difficult economic times it may be necessary to make cuts but to make cuts part way through an academic year was totally unacceptable.   They were protesting against the dismissal of staff during the academic year.   I saw a senior member of the University management interviewed and he said that the students would have been in the same situation if a member of staff chose to leave part way through the year.  This reply speaks volumes about the university’s management!  The point is true, but that situation would have been something the University could not have foreseen.   However, what has happened is that the University has taken deliberate action to dismiss staff during the academic year and this has had an effect on the student’s study experience. 

On the Student Union website today I saw the Student President’s Blog where the President, Mattias Eken, reported on a meeting with members of the University’s management.  The students had a number of demands and at the top of the list was a demand “that no more academic cuts would be made halfway through a year.”

The University representatives are reported to have replied “that they couldn’t guarantee that but promised they would communicate and intent to students that cuts were imminent should they find themselves in a similar situation again.

How on earth could TSD management get themselves into this position of making staff dismissals halfway through an academic year?   Did they not foresee the problems when they were planning their budgets a year ago?     

Student video

When I looked at the Student Union website yesterday it was showing a video of another student protest calling on the Vice-chancellor, Prof Medwin Hughes, to take a cut in salary.  Student after student was shown calling on Prof Hughes to restrict his pay to £140,000 pa for the next 5 years.    I was under the impression that his salary was higher than this.   I don’t know the outcome of this protest but there is no indication that it was successful.   But by today this video had been replaced by another video.

TSD students will no doubt know that, since the invalid decision taken on 211 October 2011 to merge the University of Wales with TSD, that Prof Hughes is, in addition to being Vice-Chancellor of their own University, also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales.   In a Freedom of Information request to the University of Wales I asked whether the position of Vice-Chancellor was a salaried position or an honorary position. 

The answer said that the post was a salaried position.   However, since 1 October 2012 the costs of the Vice-Chancellor’s post have been borne by the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David.  

The students of Trinity Saint David may be interested in knowing this.

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