Cambridge College Programme story update - The Grinch who stole Cambridge

This week, The Cambridge Student contacted the Vice-Chancellor's office to ask whether the University has any intention of beginning legal proceedings against Ms Taryn Edwards or The Cambridge College Programme. A University spokesman explained that the University currently feels that it has been presented with insufficient evidence to prosecute Ms Edwards, either under the 2006 Fraud Act for her claims of being a former staff member, or under British trademark law, for her unauthorised and misleading use of the University crest in her promotional material. As reported in TCS last week, Ms Edwards uses the reputation of the University to promote her summer camp programme, falsely describing herself as a former honorary staff member of Homerton College.

Ms Edwards has also successfully convinced schools and colleges in America that she is a legitimate representative of the University, with her summer programme featuring as "Cambridge University" approved on the National Association of High School Scholars' list of summer school programmes. Edwards' "unethical business practices" have been condemned by a number of colleges, many of whom are still owed money by the Programme. Students who have agreed to work for Edwards in previous years are still owed several thousand pounds.

Yet the University currently has no intention of beginning a legal case against Ms Edwards, explaining that they will not become involved unless it is "clear that the likely benefit to the University will outweigh the potential costs involved."

Although many colleges and students are still owed money by Ms Edwards, the University has made its position clear, informing TCS that it would not "contemplate legal action in respect of alleged wrongful conduct in respect of other parties, such as Colleges or students."

Should the colleges and students of Cambridge University find themselves the victims of wrongful conduct, TCS understands that is against the University's policy to intervene in court unless the case is financially beneficial to the University itself, rather than its colleges or students.

Only the University is in a position to bring a legal case against Ms Edwards for her use of the crest on her promotional material in accordance with Trademark laws – as the colleges and students to whom Ms Edwards is currently in debt to are not the owners of the University crest, they cannot prosecute for its misuse.

Edwards has made a number of unsuccessful attempts to register the Cambridge crest, and various "Cambridge"-based phrases as trademarks in the United States. Edwards' business model revolves around the use of an insignia and brand which she has no legal right to use. Whilst many companies run summer programmes to Cambridge each year, TCS hopes that Ms Edwards' programme will cease to be accommodated within the University and that the misleading use of University emblems can be prohibited in the future, reasserting the Cambridge logo as a guarantor of quality.

As long as there is no guaranteed financial incentive for the University in pursuing a law case, they have no intention of prosecuting Ms Edwards. Even though individual colleges have expressed their concerns to TCS over the "issues of non-payment and unethical business practices this Summer School programme", it is possible that colleges may have unknowingly agreed to accommodate Ms Edwards this summer, as she has a history of "using other guises in order to get back into the Cambridge Colleges," according to a spokesman from King's College.

Last week TCS asked each of Cambridge's colleges for an assurance that none of them will be accommodating Ms Taryn Edwards and The Cambridge College Programme in the future. 29 of the 31 colleges have agreed to prevent Edwards from using their premises, many in quite heated terms. King's College issued a statement saying that the college will "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" be accommodating Ms Edwards and her programme in the future.

However, neither Pembroke nor Queens' have denied that they may be hosting Ms Edwards' project this summer, leading to concerns among the student body that the programme may gain control of a Cambridge College this summer. Isabel, a first-year English student, shared her views with TCS: "I don't know why they wouldn't reply… Surely the University wouldn't let her back? I mean, surely not. Not again." Whilst it is reassuring to hear that individual colleges will "never knowingly" offer their facilities to the Cambridge College Programme, this is no guarantee that Ms Edwards will not be returning to Cambridge under another name, particularly as the University is currently unwilling to bring a case against her for fear of damaging its own economic interests.

Jenny Buckley

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