View RSS Feed

Growing Up and Moving Out

Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster

Rating: 9 votes, 5.00 average.
In South Africa, and perhaps the world, there exists a culture where large corporate beasts take complete advantage of those who feed them - their customers. These monsters lure their prey in with pseudo-promises and fancy marketing speak. Once they have devoured every last cent from him, the naive consumer is caged and sentenced to below-par service and no recourse for the length of the contract that he was silly enough to be bullied into.

One such corporate monster is "education provider", Varsity College. Varsity College is a pedigree monster, concerned only with its profits and not at all with the education and interests of its students. I, being the aforementioned naive consumer, would like to share my experience with said monster.

I am currently in my third year of study at Varsity College. This means I have already shovelled out in excess of R120 000 into the bottomless pits that are Varsity College's pockets. "Wowzer! That's a lot of money!" you say? Well yes, yes it is. Let's just say that without a bursary to contribute around half of my fees each year, I probably wouldn't be studying there in the first place. Nevertheless, I (naive consumer) chose Varsity College over my other options for a few reasons, despite the ridiculous fees. I would get fantastic service delivery to justify the fees, right?


From the minute my signature went down on that piece of paper, which was immediately whisked away and buried deep within the monster's lair, Varsity College has made it an absolute nightmare trying to get fair, ethical service delivery from them. This has all culminated in a second incident this year.

Each year I register for the entire year up front and pay in full in order to take advantage of the "early bird discount" and ease the effect that the greedy monster has on my dwindling bank account. The problem with this, however, is that you register for the year not knowing what to expect regarding lectures and, in my case, lecturers. In this instance, for the second time this year, I ended up with a lecturer that was really sub-par for a particular subject. I, along with others, had previously expressed our dissatisfaction with the lecturer , with nothing being done about it by Varsity College.

Ultimately this forced me to reconsider attending lectures for that particular subject. I figured I could achieve more and waste less time working at home on my own (being a UNISA degree, this is an option) than attending lectures and wasting 3 hours a week being set up to fail. I submitted a de-registration form to Varsity College on the first day of the semester, as soon as I found out who the lecturer for the subject was, citing the lecturer as the reason for my de-registration.

To my complete astonishment Varsity College, being the greedy corporate beast that it is, reflected on my next monthly statement that I would only receive 50% of the registration fee back! That's half of my money taken for something that I have not used, or intended to use, a single minute of! On querying this amount, I was told that I was charged a cancellation fee because my reason for de-registration was a "non-academic" reason. If a horrible lecturer and my success in a particular subject is not an academic reason, then God alone knows what is!

That's not all, folks. There's more! This ravenous monster has blatantly refused to refund the credit balance on my account. I (as well as fellow students who also deregistered for the same reason) was told that the amount will sit as a credit on my account permanently, even if I don't return to Varsity College in the next year. If this is not daylight robbery, then I'm not sure what is! It would seem that this monster needs to spend some time in its own financial management lectures, because it does not seem to realise that money is worth considerably more now than it would be next year when Varsity College decides to increase its fees to new astronomical proportions.

In a nutshell, then, Varsity College is charging a ridiculous amount for something that is not being delivered to me, the consumer, and they are withholding funds that are not rightfully theirs. Nor do they pay interest on credit balances. Does that seem fair?

What gets my goat is that if I had known who the lecturer would be before I registered, I wouldn't have registered for that subject (in this case, two subjects in the current year) in the first place! Varsity College is taking complete advantage of the fact that they now have their customers' money and are manipulating that situation in a manner that I believe is completely unethical and, quite frankly, pathetic.

I have finally reached the end of my tether and, simply because I don't have a legal arsenal at my disposal, have to resort to writing scathing articles about this greedy corporate beast. Perhaps I am throwing pebbles at a goliath. Then again, perhaps I am informing many other prospective victims (Varsity College calls them "students") of the woes they will undoubtedly experience should they be considering enrolling at Varsity College. If it turns out to be the latter option, I will consider my part (in the struggle against greedy corporate monsters) played.

In the end, it's not even the money that I'm concerned with - it's the principal behind it all. Numerous students at my campus alone (surely many more countrywide) are being cheated out of money that is rightfully theirs. Will Varsity College ever own up to this and move towards corrective action? Probably not.

This is a plea to other disgruntled consumers. Do not bow down and submit to the unethical, greedy corporate monsters in our country. You have a voice, please use it. Reward those who take care of the heart of their businesses - their customers. Expose those who take advantage of long contracts and the corporate facade to cheat the individual consumer.

If you are a prospective student or the parent of a prospective student and you value your money, I strongly suggest you look seriously into a state university, where education (as opposed to profit) is the focus.

If you, however, have money to waste, aren't perturbed by sub-par service delivery and can't identify when somebody is taking advantage of you - well, you could always befriend a monster.

Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to Digg Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to StumbleUpon Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to Google Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to muti Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to Laaikit Submit "Varsity College - Another Greedy Corporate Monster" to My Yahoo!

Tags: ethics, greed
Misc Ramblings


  1. Dave A's Avatar
    Not going to take it to small claims court, then?
  2. IanF's Avatar
    Have you contacted Advtech the holding company. Here is a link to a press release. Maybe use the email address there and ask them to comment on this blog.
  3. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    @Dave - I have considered it and might still do so. I'm not sure of the steps I should take, though?

    @Ian - Thanks Ian! I think I will do exactly that.
  4. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    I sent Paddy Naidoo from ADvTECH an email this afternoon.

    She has replied stating that she has read this article and that the individual needs of the students and quality of education is important to them. In turn she has forwarded my email to the Managing Director of Varsity College, who will be in contact with me to discuss further.

    Now we wait.
  5. IanF's Avatar
    That is good news maybe the guys at the top don't know what is happening in the trenches. Have you ever watched Undercover Boss.
  6. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    I received a request for a meeting with the MD of Varsity College today. I will set up the meeting and keep you posted once I've had the meeting.

    I'm fully expecting the same old "policy" story, though. If I get that stock-standard response I will walk out then and there.

    Ian, that is possible but I highly doubt it. I keep being told that the policy is set by the higher-ups and it isn't going to change.

    Nevertheless, my meeting with Odette from Varsity College will reveal all.
  7. IanF's Avatar
    Mark If you have time read Getting to Yes. One of the best courses I ever did. First point is have a Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) that is what is your walk away position is. That is a very empowering tool.
    Then look for positions where they can save face and it is not important to you. EG Ask for interest but you don't really want it. There is a lot more but always try for a win-win.
    While it is hard, try to leave emotions out of it. Good luck.
  8. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    Thanks Ian! I have read a few books like that, but will definitely see if I can't read that one. I think I need to get myself a Kindle.
  9. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    So I met with Odette Francesconi, MD of Varsity College today. We spoke for well over an hour about the situation and came to an eventual resolution where I will be paid out my second semester registration fee in full for that particular module and she will begin procedures to look into and rectify certain VC policies and procedures in order to avoid a similar situation in future.

    I must commend her on her handling of the situation. She seemed sincere and her tone, demeanor and the genuine care she displayed for Varsity College was rather disarming. Characteristics of a great leader, I'm sure. Now I just hope that she follows through on her promises.

    Well done Odette. You have shown that perhaps Varsity College is not just another big corporate trying to take advantage of the consumer.

    I was also wrong in saying Varsity College would not move towards corrective action. It seems they have taken my article to heart and are going to work towards a fair and equitable policy.

    Let this be a lesson to other big corporations. Your customers are right at the heart of your business. Do not neglect them and allow issues to spiral, resulting in frustrated customers having to resort to writing articles such as the above.
    We do not want to name and shame, we just want fair practice. Provide a good service and you will get your money. Basics, basics, basics.
  10. IanF's Avatar
    Well done Mark, it sounds like you got what you wanted and Varsity College wants to listen to it's customers. A win-win.
  11. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    Thanks Ian. I think it ended up as a win-win because Odette realises and accepts that the students are customers of Varsity College, not children. I don't think that a lot of the employees on the ground realise the impact of that particular fact (as it is probably quite unique to a business in the education sector) and this results in sticky situations such as the one I ended up in.
  12. Dave A's Avatar
    Mark, you might be interested to know that my daughter was polled for her view on the lecturer concerned. The fact that a number of students at the Westville campus had withdrawn was mentioned.

    The other interesting thing to keep track of is how long it'll take Varsity College to process the credit. My daughter had to cancel one module with them for the second semester due to a timetable clash. It's now well over two months later and the credit has still not been passed.
  13. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    Thanks Dave! That's very interesting indeed. I must say that the MD has been quick and efficient in addressing these problems.

    I received my refund cheque on Monday, just two days after my meeting with Odette. I was told that my class mates in the same situation could contact the principal directly to address their problems. One such friend phoned yesterday and was told that she would be paid out in full immediately because the situation is the same as mine. (I was referred to by name apparently )

    The fact that your credit has not been passed yet is something of concern. Especially seeing as a timetable clash qualifies as an "academic reason" in the eyes of Varsity College. I must say I've never really had a problem with the delay in processing credit - just problems with the other things mentioned above.

    I would contact them about that. If they don't act, contact the principal. If still no joy, I'll give you Odette's email address.
  14. Dave A's Avatar
    Quick update - The credit was passed in this month's statement, so that's now sorted.
  15. Yvonne's Avatar
    Does Varsity College hold SETA/SAQA accreditation?
  16. Mark Atkinson's Avatar
    I'm not 100% sure of what those credentials entail, but I'm sure that they are accredited with the necessary.
  17. Ann Williams's Avatar
    I'm glad to know that things are being sorted out for you and for other students Mark. Theoretically most of your concerns could be a considered a matter of contract law eg. did the contract you signed when you registered (and yes there would have been one even if they didn't actually show it to you) eg. only getting 50% refund on cancellation.
    The business about keeping your refund in their account and not giving it back to you is a completely different story.
    If anyone else has that problem with any learning institution where they refuse to give you back money that has been refunded, I would suggest that you immediately go to the Consumer Protection Commissioner. The Consumer Protection Act says that refunded monies MUST be given to the client if the client wants it back. (Nb! If the client wants to leave it with the organisation - say for the next semester's fees - they may do so.)
    But is the client's decision and not the provider's as to whether that cash is paid out or not.