Fears firm may not go distance

Joshua Cole director of My Distance Learning College, front, with staff
Joshua Cole director of My Distance Learning College, front, with staff
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A Rotherham distance learning company has warned it could close – and 32,000 students might not get their certificates – after a row over payment with an awards body.

My Distance Learning College claims it has been left reeling by a £20,000 bill for upfront payment for certificates from the NCFE (formerly the Northern Council for Further Education).

Director Joshua Cole said it was a surprise charge for all students on courses approved by the council – in contrast to the old system which, for the last four years, had meant him paying piecemeal as each learner completed their studies.

And when he refused to pay the council refused to issue any certificates.

The company, of Manvers, Rotherham, employs 15 and has a £3m turnover. Courses include health and social care, administration, retail and HR.

Joshua Cole said: “This has been disastrous for both us and our students and I’m desperate to find a solution that ensures we can both enjoy a prosperous future.

“The damage that has been done to the business means we have no option but to resort to legal challenges.

“However, I now fear for the future of the business as no other awarding bodies will be willing to work with us. Unless we find an alternative awarding organisation then we are in serious trouble. We are worried about our learners waiting for certificates and around 15 staff would be affected if the company closed.”

A spokeswoman for the NCFE said they had a transparent fees and pricing structure which was on its website.

She added: “All centres who work with us have 30 days to pay from the point of invoice and this has not altered at any point.

“These unpaid invoices relate to the registration fees that must be paid in return for NCFE providing external quality assurance and certification to learners.

“We are taking appropriate action to deal with this matter. Unfortunately, until this situation is resolved we will be unable to provide external quality assurance visits and certification to My Distance Learning College and its learners.”

Students can call the council on 0191 2398000.