Americans 'misled on Cambridge study visits'

The university is investigating a claim that US students believe their pounds 5,000 courses are part of college life
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Cambridge University is investigating allegations that Americans who paid more than pounds 5,000 to study in the city were misled into believing they were going on one of its courses.

The Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University, Indianapolis, has links with 50 universities across the English- speaking world, including Oxford, and places 1,500 students abroad. At Cambridge, however, a dozen academics are paid on a freelance basis to teach students from US universities in their college rooms. The students stay in accommodation at the edge of the city centre.

Applicants for both Oxford and Cambridge programmes are sent a leaflet which says: "We are delighted that you are considering studying abroad at Cambridge or Oxford - the most outstanding academic institutions in Great Britain and two of the world's greatest universities." It goes on to describe Cambridge's collegiate system and says that the students will be offered "the fullest academic and social integration possible".

In fact, the Americans do not live in the university but in a separate building called Warkworth House. They are taught by a dozen college fellows and cannot attend lectures or join university sports clubs. The information sent to them, however, says they are encouraged to seek membership of "various college and student societies".

The leaflet adds: "These societies offer excellent opportunities for social integration with British students." It describes the range of college-based sports which "abound" in Cambridge before adding that the Parkside municipal pool - the only sports facility the students have a right to use - is "just a few blocks" from their digs.

The leaflet names a dozen fellows from Christ's, Downing, Jesus, Newnham, Pembroke, Selwyn and Trinity colleges, who teach the Americans. It does point out that full integration in Cambridge is only possible by direct application to a college and that the students cannot live in, or be an official member of, any college.

Cambridge University is now investigating the programme after being sent an anonymous letter claiming to come from dissatisfied students. A spokeswoman said that, although she could not comment further on the case until inquiries were complete, the university would never take part in a programme of this kind. "There would never be any need for a student who wanted to study at Cambridge to go through some sort of intermediary," she said.

The American students study under the aegis of the Institute of Economic and Political Studies - Instep - which has no link with of the university. Its director, Geoffrey Lee Williams, is an affiliated lecturer at the Centre of International Studies, which is part of the university.

Mr Williams said the students, who take a 13-week programme in groups of between 25 and 30, were told clearly when they arrived that they would not be integrated into the university. But students could use the libraries and could go to their tutors' rooms, he said, adding: "If there had been disquiet we would have known about it. It seems to me that this is an attempt at mischief."

Dr David Gray, director of overseas operations at the Institute for Study Abroad, a non-profit-making-body affiliated to Butler University, said the letter of complaint could not have been written by any of its students.

References to the university alongside those to Oxford were simply scene-setting. "It is very clear when you get to the descriptions of the programmes that the students aren't going to be enrolled at Cambridge. It is just a description of the universities and how they function."