Monday, October 10, 2011

TASMAC's sudden closure of its operations leaves 550 students in a lurch

When students and staff of TASMAC London School of Business, run by Pune-based TASMAC group, showed up on campus on Friday morning, they were expecting their first semester results. Instead they found themselves locked out and bailiffs and lawyers in possession of the property.

A terse message in their inboxes said TASMAC London had ceased operations because of a change in UK visa regulations. "We regret to inform you that TASMAC London has had to cease its operations with immediate effect.

Almost all of TASMAC London students originate from non-European Union countries and they need visas to study at the school. The United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) has drastically changed its regulations and this has impacted TASMAC London badly; as a consequence, TASMAC London cannot continue to run its operations any longer."

The last time the UKBA changed its rules was in April 2011. Not surprisingly, students and employees are livid. Over 550 students are still to finish their course, and staff have been suddenly rendered unemployed. Students, who had paid up their full fees for an MBA from the University of Wales in TASMAC London, suddenly find themselves in a limbo, their visa status in question, and no clarity on their future.

The Pune-based company runs three business schools in India in Pune, Bangalore and Kolkata, and lists names like Lila Poonawala and PC Shejwalkar of Pune University on its board of advisors. Sameer Dua, Joint Managing Director, TASMAC India and TASMAC London, told ET that the London operations had to be closed after an attempt to induct an investor failed.

"We were working towards hiving off the TASMAC London institutes, for which we signed an MoU with this large Indian institute which wanted a UK presence. In the first week of June, they carried out a due diligence and after they saw the impact of the changed UKBA regulations and how they affect the sustainability of operations, they developed cold feet and told us they would not be able to go through. That was in the last week of September, after which we informed the liquidators, who have begun the process."

Dua insisted students will be placed in institutes affiliated with the University of Wales. "On Monday, a meeting will be held among the 550 students who have still to complete their course, the University of Wales and their affiliated institutes who will take in these students." TASMAC, in London and in India, offers courses validated by the University of Wales.

Students distraught, faculty livid
The university will transfer the students to other courses, as well as arrange institutes to take over as visa sponsors, according to the notification issued to the students. In response to a query, the UKBA press office pointed out that the guidelines say students who change education sponsors midway will have to re-apply for their visas, but can stay and start their new course before the application is processed provided the new institute has an HTS status.

It is not yet clear which institutes the students will be sent to.The prospects of students being transferred to other institutes is no solace, since they have no idea which institutes are likely to accept them or what will happen to the fees they have paid up front, or where these institutes are located. Unsurprisingly, the students are distraught. Satish Gupta, who mortgaged his home and gave up a job in Bangalore to pay the over £6,000 fees to get his MBA, is desperate: "The directors have all just disappeared. We can't reach them. Now, we don't know what to do."

Till Sunday midday, there was no communication from the directors on the school's website or social networking sites, and students say anguished emails went unanswered. Kailash Deoli from Dehra Dun asks, "We're told another institute is going to take us - but what if that also closes down? We don't know what will happen to us."

Source: The Economic Times (Online Edition), October 10, 2011

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