Bait and Switch in Academia

EDIT: Followed up with my friend, and it seems that she took matters into her own hands and made some phone calls. She will be able to take the Oxford Fantasists class after all, but it took a few hours worth of phone calls to get all the people needed on her end, and then people at Oxford, to make arrangements. She will be a part of an undergraduate group at Oxford, not a graduate one, but the class is essentially the same. Victory to those who take defeat and turn it inside out and upside down!

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Something I just heard about, and it makes me stop and think. An online friend who is working towards her master’s degree in literature was given the opportunity to spend a summer semester at Oxford. The Oxford. And the course she specifically wanted to take was Oxford Fantasists. A special class, certainly, and perfect for someone who already writes fantasy tales and wants to learn more about their creation. My friend looked at the costs of the program, decided it was worth it, and went ahead with a kickstarter campaign to help raise the $5000 + it would take to do the Oxford Summer. She made her goal just last week. We squeed and cheered. We got excited when she went to give in the check for registration.

Today it may be that she isn’t going. Not because money fell through, but because the offered program is now described as different from the original. The Oxford Fantasist course isn’t being offered through her school, and it may not be offered at all, even when it was in the program brochure. And up until now, nothing was said about the course not being offered.

Is this academic bait and switch? Get people excited about one course, let them pay for the program and then tell them that the course isn’t being offered at all? It smacks of it to me. And it feels like my friend spent all this time and energy on the kickstarter and making summer plans for the trip and the academic setting only to be told at the LAST MINUTE that the course she wanted to take isn’t there at all. She was sobbing over her keyboard when I came over here to write this.

How would I feel? About the same I think. Do other universities and colleges do this? Lure a student in with promises of classes and then not offer them? I am wondering. And I might do some research to find out. If you have experience with this, let me know. I think students have the right to know what is and is not being offered in a program in the definite sense. It doesn’t matter if you are getting an undergraduate or a graduate degree, or what that degree will be in. Courses should not be offered as bait to lure students to pay up front, and once a university, even one as prestigious as Oxford, gets that money, a student excited about learning should not have to find out that their dreams are nowhere to be found.

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