Students swindled by shocking summer-camp scam

Exclusive: Cambridge students have been cheated out of thousands of pounds by the director of "The Cambridge College Programme" (CCP) Taryn Edwards, The Cambridge Student has learned. Edwards has still not paid a group of 41 students for work completed last summer and refuses to respond to any of their inquiries or to TCS.

Geographer Hannah Alderton and Natural Scientist Shaun Cook, both at Sidney Sussex, appeared before the CUSU council on Monday to propose a motion to condemn the actions of Taryn Edwards and discourage students from applying to work for her.

Alderton noted that the motion "intended to prevent the exploitation of other students" as "on the face of it, it seemed like a very good opportunity, and was much more flexible than trying to find a summer job at home, and so we are sure that if she tried to advertise again she would have no problem with recruitment".

The 41 students, owed between £1000 and £2000 each, have taken Edwards fromLake Forest Illinois, USA and her company to a UK Employment Tribunal.

However, as the Tribunal operates outside the court system and Edwards and her business are resident in the US, it can exert no legal pressure to extract payment.

Students have been told through the Tribunal that Edwards is "experiencing financial difficulties" and this has been given as her reason for her evasion of CCP's financial obligations. Despite this, the 2012 programme is currently advertised online, complete with a daily schedule and an optional week-long "Paris Excursion" following the academic programme in Cambridge.

In addition to the "considerable amount of financial pressure" non-payment has produced for students identified by Alderton, the stress of the Employment Tribunal has wasted students' time and energy. "It has all taken a considerable amount of time," Alderton commented, "the Employment Tribunal is a slow and frustrating process and will not lead to an enforceable outcome in the US…as there are such a substantial number of us, we have a lot of people to consider."

Taryn Edwards, who advertises herself as "a former Honorary Senior Member of Staff at Homerton College", also allegedly, owes money to a number of Cambridge colleges as well as other organisations such as boathouses for accommodation and services provided during the course of the programme.

Participants, or "scholars" as the programme's website calls them, are due to be charged $6000 in 2012, plus a non-refundable application fee of $200. This amount does not include airfare, breakfast, lunch and other meals off-campus, or entrance fees for museum exhibitions. "Scholars" are also required to pay an extra $300 if they want to take part in rowing or golf and instruction in horseback riding or polo is available for an extra $400. The "Paris Excursion" will cost students a further $2300. Consequently, the programme might set participants back over $10,000.

Cambridge academic and Lecturer in Modern British History on the programme since 2005, Dr David Fowler defended Edwards: "I don't think its malicious – maybe just poor organisation," going on to confirm that "I've always been paid".

However, this is not the first time Edwards has come under scrutiny for her business practices. There are allegations against her for late payment for work and services for programmes she's run in both Oxford and Cambridge. A post on the website Cambridge Confidential in 2009 warns prospective students against the programme: "Don't go. I'm a Cambridge student and know that the program is run by an outside company that rents space at a couple of colleges and is just there to take your money."

Alice Moore & Emily Loud

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The Cambridge Student Editorial Week Five

Article first published Feb 16, 2012


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