Shetland students stranded

21st January 2000 at 00:00
TROUBLED Moray College in Elgin failed to gain approval for a key part of a business administration degree, forcing three Shetland students to abandon their jobs and families and take the course in Elgin instead of by distance learning in the islands.

In the latest embarrassment to hit the college, the three students told the Shetland Times they blame Robert Chalmers, the principal. Dr Chalmers has been suspended while disciplinary proceedings take place against him following an "alleged misuse of public funds", although there is no suggestion that is linked to the students' plight.

Kay Sutherland, Robert Halcrow and Stephen Simpson, who are all in their early 30s and have six children among them, are now living in bed and breakfast accommodation in Elgin paid for meantime by the college but with just pound;600 each to last them until their final exams in June. "It's going to be a long term," Ms Sutherland told the newspaper.

The three embarked on their degree course in business administration following a higher national diploma at Shetland College. The course was delivered by electronic link from Moray College to Shetland College, using the latest video-conferencing facilities.

But at the end of November, it emerged that Robert Gordon University, which approves degrees awarde by Moray, had not validated the course for delivery by means of video-conferencing

Greg Cooper, the acting principal, told the Shetland Times: "I'm working in order to address the whole issue as quickly as I can. But we are delighted to have the students here."

Ms Sutherland, who has two sons, told the newspaper: "The reason all three of us signed up in the first place was that we could stay at home and do it. This was the first degree we could do in Shetland . It was a good opportunity to carry on, but it fell flat."

She added: "The ironic thing is video-conferencing is part of our course, the use of new technology and how it can assist business and they wouldn't even accept us learning through it."

Gordon Dargie, the Shetland College principal, who encouraged the students throughout, said: "Something we had been led to believe was an acceptable arrangement turned out not to be acceptable to the university."

Mr Dargie continued: "I was present at a meeting when these three students were given the reassurance that they would not be financially disadvantaged and so I will be very disappointed if that has been the case. These are very good students and they could do without this distraction."

All three had to leave part-time jobs when they moved south.

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