WHAT A WASTE; Students Speak out against College HUSBAND and Wife Michael and Angela Smallman Are Preparing to Be Sentenced for Crimes of Fraudulent Trading and Money Laundering Surrounding the Disgraced National Distance Learning College and Its Demise in 2001. Reporter GARETH LIGHTFOOT Examines the Case from the Students' Viewpoint, the Police Investigation, and the Warnings Learners Still Need to Heed

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Byline: GARETH LIGHTFOOT

FORMER NDLC students from all walks of life throughout the UK gave accounts of their experiences to the trial.

Delays, frustration, misrepresentation, problems with refunds, uncertainty over qualifications, difficulties contacting the college, unhelpful staff and poor, confusing and missing course materials were some of the complaints.

Several said the same thing - had they known their courses were not accredited by bodies like BTEC and City and Guilds, they would not have bothered enrolling in the first place.

They varied from a teenage student to retired learners. A nursery assistant, a gas fitter, a retired journalist, an accountant, all eager to learn skills such as computing.

Some paid hundreds of pounds for their training.

One student said he felt he had been "ripped off". Another said she felt the tutors knew less about her chosen subject of book-keeping than she did.

Hospital worker Jacqueline Smith said the course materials and the lack of service was "rubbish" value.

Computing student Christopher Irving, then 14, made no complaints about the material he received, but was "upset and angry that obviously it had been a waste of money".

Farmer Keith Wheelhouse said he was "impressed by the obviously high standard" when he signed up, but felt deceived, upset and annoyed on finding courses weren't accredited.

Neil Mann had an "uphill struggle" to get a BTEC certificate - one of 18 who did.

Some students pursued the NDLC through the county courts to get money back.

Gary Waller won his case. He spent money from his grandmother's inheritance enrolling on a course which he thought would earn him a BTEC.

He said he felt taken in, his money taken and nothing given in return.

He since passed courses at a different college, gained a degree and now teaches IT and geography at that college. …