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In January 2007, ICUT's website advertisements were curbed by Coventry University - egged on by neighbouring universities - all of whom resented ICUT's popularity among students and its growing profile. As a result, ICUT served notice of intent to challenge the University's actions in the High Court, and instructed legal counsel accordingly. At the last minute, Coventry University backed off from a High Court battle; ICUT's website advertisements have been restored and the Students Union (who never wanted the dispute in the first place) have sought a restoration of normal working relations. Conclusively, events show ICUT to have been totally vindicated. In the future, ICUT will continue to champion the rights of the independent educational provider, and will not be deterred by threats, poisoned whispers, negative innuendo or any other forms of bullying by such institutions as Coventry University, University of Warwick, UCE and their like. ICUT stands for good teaching standards, provided by competent tutors on ethical terms at affordable rates.

We shall continue to promote our services, while also monitoring the universities' performances in the near future. This coming Summer ICUT will be publishing a report on the attainments of universities in the English Midlands. Our report will comment on teaching provision, student access to resources and the real levels of pastoral support to students experiencing difficulties, most particularly overseas students.

Watch this space for more!

We invite you to note the articles which follow.



The Birmingham Post                                        Thursday April 12th 2007

University caves in over ad for tuition

By Shahid Naqvi

Education Correspondent

A private tutoring firm has forced a Midland university to back down from a ban on asserting its "legitimate" right to offer extra paid-for tuition to students.

Managers at Coventry University told their student union to remove an advertisement by ICUT from its website and magazine at the beginning of this year.

However, ICUT founder Dr Vincent McKee threatened to take the university to court claiming it was illegally attempting to stifle private sector competition.

Coventry University's student union has now reinstated the firm's advertisement after finding no legitimate grounds for the ban. The university's managers are also not opposing the move.

Dr McKee, who says his Coventry-based company is providing a much-needed service to students in the face of poor teaching standards, hailed the U-turn as a victory for private sector involvement in higher education. "The private sector is here to stay. We are offering a service that is legitimate, ethical and affordable," he said.

"I welcome the initiative by the student union president Chris Smith to end this unnecessary and highly unpleasant rupture in relations. I entirely accept the rupture was not the union's doing and appreciate the work of Mr Smith and his colleagues in restoring the relationship."

ICUT was created two years ago and typically charges students £35 for a two-hour session.

The company insists it does not do coursework for clients but helps them get to grips with subjects they are falling behind on. Dr McKee said the firm was inundated with requests for help and blamed sloppy teaching by universities for the demand.

A banner advert and a directory listing for ICUT was removed from Coventry University's student union website in January on instruction from the institution's vice-chancellor, Professor Madeleine Atkins.

The university said it "does not support the advertising of any external agency offering educational support of this kind or similar to its students on campus".

Last month, Dr McKee gave the university 14 days to restore the company's advertisement or face court proceedings on grounds of breaching the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.

The university capitulated in the face of the legal threat and the union has agreed to carry the advert.

A spokesman for Coventry University said: "We understand that Dr McKee has a contract with the students' union and they are prepared to honour this."

Chris Smith, student union president, said: "We have successfully resolved this issue with ICUT."



Coventry Telegraph                                              Wednesday April 18, 2007

University caves in over private tuition ads

The boss of a private tutoring firm has won his battle to advertise his company on the Coventry University Student Union website.

Dr Vincent McKee, director of Independent College and University Tutors, has forced Coventry University to back down and allow the advert on the student website.

The row broke out in January when Coventry University bosses asked the student union not to accept the ICUT advert. They said they didn’t support external companies advertising academic help to students.

But Dr. McKee threatened legal action and the university and student union have now decided to let the adverts go ahead.

Dr McKee said: “I respect Madeleine Atkins’ [the university vice chancellor’s] right to run Coventry University in the public interest but, equally, she must respect our right to offer our services to students who are struggling with courses.”

ICUT, based in Tower Street, Coventry city centre, employs academics to offer extra help to students worried they’re falling behind. A two-hour session usually costs £35. The service is most popular with overseas students but British students are also among the customers.

SEE BELOW for the history of this dispute.



In respect of Coventry University's latest battle with ICUT over our right to advertise tutoring services to students, we can confirm that between 25th September 2006 and 4th April 2007, a total of 621 students contacted ICUT from Coventry seeking our help. A further 412 contacted ICUT from UCE, 307 from the University of Warwick, 91 from Birmingham University and 68 from Aston University. Those figures speak for themselves!



The Birmingham Post                                                26 February 2007

Tutoring row suggests more serious problem

By Shahid Naqvi

Education Correspondent

 A Coventry-based private tutoring firm that targets struggling students claims a university could put it out of business.

ICUT is pursuing legal action against Coventry University, which ordered its student union body to remove a paid-for advertisement by the company from its website.

The firm has already clashed with Warwick University and Birmingham’s University of Central England, both of which have banned its advertising leaflets on campus.

But ICUT founder Dr Vincent McKee claims the business – which typically charges £35 for a two-hour session – is a legitimate enterprise and a response to “widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of teaching and academic supervision” at universities.

“We provide an ethical service of retired academics or post-graduate students at affordable rates,” he said.

“We try and offer them a good service to prevent them going to unscrupulous services on the internet. We have had 416 students from Coventry contact us between last September and the end of January and 323 from UCE.

“The figures speak for themselves. This is what the universities don’t like,” he said.

“This is the first year all the universities charge £3,000 for tuition fees. Clearly they are not doing their job.”

Dr McKee claimed the issue had become a test case for the right of private business to provide an educational service to students.

He said: “We believe the university is trying to drive us out of business.”

And he claimed universities wanted to maintain a “monopoly” on higher education, fuelled by an “innate prejudice against the private sector” regardless of what was best for their students.

“The private sector is there to fulfil needs for providing education and back-up support for students who clearly universities are leaving behind,” he said.

“Many overseas students are not clear about accessing research methods for British universities. These are the kind of things universities claim to provide, but are not.

“Their glossy literature makes preposterous claims that aren’t borne our in reality.”

Dr McKee claimed 70 per cent of students using ICUT were from overseas and were being let down by universities that failed to live up to promises of support.

Solicitors acting on behalf of ICUT, which stands for the Institute of Independent Colleges and University Teachers, have issued a legal writ against Coventry University. They have given it 14 days to restore the company’s advert on the student union website or face court proceedings on grounds of breaching the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977.

Coventry University said in a statement: “The University does not support the advertising of any external agency offering educational support of this kind or similar to its students on campus.”

Chris Smith, president of Coventry University Students’ Union, said: “We are working closely with the university and ICUT UK to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”

On its website ICUT offers help with pre-exam revision, essay/assignment support and proofreading, graduate support, as well as help for foundation degree and sixth-form students.

Created in 2005, the organisation also sets out a mission to challenge the “increasingly dubious claims by British universities to be providing ‘quality teaching’ to students” and confront a culture of “arrogant elitism displayed by the state universities”.

A spokeman for Warwick University said it judged posters advertising ICUT services were “inappropriate” and therefore removed them from campus.

Professor Mary Caswekk, pro vice-chancellor of UCE, said: “We are very aware of the availability of such services but do not allow anyone to advertise or promote such services on campus. We have also been working closely with our Students’ Union to warn students of the consequences of being tempted by such services.”



The Coventry Telegraph                                            26 February 2007

Private tutors furious over advert ban

A row has broken out between a firm of private tutors and Coventry University.

Bosses at Independent College and University Tutors based in Tower Street, Coventry city centre are at loggerheads with the university.

The firm’s director, Vincent McKee, is angry that Coventry University Students’ Union will no longer take his adverts.

University bosses asked the union to turn them down. University bosses have also asked ICUT staff not to hand out leaflets on university premises.

The two sides are now exchanging solicitors’ letters.

The issue at the hear of the row is whether students need to pay private tutors as well as going to lectures, seminars and tutorials run by their university.

ICUT employs academics who offer extra tuition at £35 for two hours to university students worried they’re falling behind.

The service is most popular with overseas students although British students are also among the customers.

But university bosses don’t think it’s right that private tutors should advertise on university premises to students.

Dr McKee said: “ICUT is a legitimate enterprise providing an alternative service.

“We don’t go on to the campus but we stand outside handing out leaflets.

“The problem is that the university resents the fact that there are a large number of students taking up our service.”

Chris Smith, president of Coventry University Students’ Union, said: “We are working closely with the university and ICUT UK to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”

A Coventry University spokeswoman said: “The University does not support the advertising of any external agency offering educational support of this kind or similar to its students on campus.”


Game, set and match to ICUT !


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