Disgraced fake don's debt-dodging summer camp set to return to Cambridge

Editorial Lent 2012 Issue Five 17 January 2013

Exclusive: The Cambridge College Programme, a legally dubious summer camp scheme which rips off Cambridge University students while promising visitors a ‘taste of the Cambridge experience’ for more than $2,000 a week, plans to return to the University this summer.

The programme, founded by one Ms Taryn Edwards, takes advantage of Cambridge University students by offering them summer work while having no intention of fulfilling its obligations of payment.

The qualifications Edwards lists on her programme’s website are fraudulent. She describes herself as a “former Honorary Senior Member of Staff” at Homerton College. When asked about the position Ms. Edwards held at Homerton, Deborah Griffin, the college’s bursar, gave the following statement to TCS: “I can assure you we will not be accommodating this woman or her students. Edwards has never been a member of staff at Homerton College or had any connection with the College.” Edwards’ business model centres around her use of the Cambridge name, allying herself with the historical university to lend a semblance of respectability to her business. Despite the Cambridge College Programme not being affiliated with the University, the company’s literature has been using the Cambridge logo since 1990, in what TCS understands to be a breach of British copyright law.

A number of students are still owed between £1,000 and £2,000 by Ms Edwards (as previously reported in The Cambridge Student, 1 May 2012). Edwards is believed to owe an even greater amount to those colleges which have been duped into accommodating her scheme in the past.

Edwards charges her “scholars” $6300 to attend her three week course, in addition to requesting a non-refundable $200 application fee. Whilst her costings are inclusive of “supervised transportation” to and from London, Edwards’ attempts to justify her asking-price are unconvincing, citing necessary expenses such as “linen, towels and maid service” as factors in the programme’s extortionate cost.

Whilst Edwards refuses to pay students who work for her during the programme, she charges those participating in the scheme over-the-odds for an array of extra-curricular activities. Should a student decide to participate in each activity, the additional costs incurred amount to $2,700, generating a significant profit for Ms Edwards. For a student enrolling on a course of “English riding lessons” the fee is $600, the equivalent of £370. Yet booking the eight lessons without going through Edwards would cost £200 at around £25 per hour. Despite the huge sums of money which enter Edwards’ account, she continues to refuse payment to the students who have worked for her.

When asked to comment on her business plan and proposed return to Cambridge in 2013, Edwards gave no response.

Despite her objectionable business policies non-existent qualifications, the testimonials Ms. Edwards’ course have received are glowing. “I have been professional educator” (sic.), writes one proud parent, explaining that they have spent “35 years” as “professional educator.”

The aforementioned individual claims to have experience working with both “semi professional and professional students.” It seems that Ms Edwards considers the students of Cambridge University, neither “professional” nor even “semi professional students”, but as a readily available source of free labour.

Edwards’ website is unlikely to inspire confidence, particularly when she uses two names. She has posted to her site as ‘Taryn Edwards’ and ‘Ms. Baldwin-Edwards’, assuming her maiden name, presumably in an attempt to distance herself from adverse media coverage and to increase the likelihood of securing a conference booking with one of the Cambridge Colleges for her Programme this year.

If true, this would explain the last minute nature of her conference bookings. Nowhere on her website or application form are potential scholars informed of where they will be staying, or by whom courses will be led.

Nonetheless, one proud “parent” has issued a glowing testimonial, which appears on the homepage of Edwards’ site: “The learning and leadership Elizabeth gained through the Cambridge College Programme was immeasurable. She came home a changed person. Her world view had expanded to a global view In short Elizabeth departed a successful happy high school student and returned a confident young woman prepared in every way for university life.”

These letters from parents describe a programme of “immeasurable” value which fills those participating in it with confidence and gives them a “global” outlook on life. For those students still owed money by Edwards the scheme has undoubtedly been an “immeasurable” experience, which has changed their “world views” for purely negative reasons.

Despite requesting that colleges would not offer accommodation to Ms. Edwards and the Cambridge College Programme this year, at the time of going print, ten colleges including Homerton, King’s and Pembroke were unwilling to confirm to TCS whether or not they intend to house Programme in 2013.

Lucy Cavendish told TCS that they “will and has never had” any dealing with Ms Edwards. Whilst neither confirming nor denying that they intend to accommodate Edwards, Robison College thanked TCS for bringing the matter to their attention. In light of the fact that Ms Edwards and her students stayed in the college last year, it is to be hoped that they will not be re-accommodated, here or elsewhere, for 2013.

Tristram Fane Saunders & Jenny Buckley – Editor & News Co-Editor

Related Stories:

Students swindled by shocking summer-camp scam

Editorial Lent 2012 Issue Five