1. Back in 1999 I'd fallen into working as a self-employed social researcher, and needed to update my skills, so I enrolled for a Masters degree in Social Research Methods. I was told the course had been approved by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) so I would be able to apply for funding from them if I chose to go on and do a PhD. Two years later I wanted to do that very thing, so I sorted out the paperwork and took it to my course tutor for him to complete. He contacted me a few days later and shamefacedly told me that someone at his university had failed to fill in a form, which meant in practice that the course had not been approved by the ESRC, and so I could not apply for funding from them unless I did another year of full-time study of social research methods. As nobody else funds social science PhDs, I had to either do the extra year or fund my own PhD. At the time, this was a major blow.
2. Even longer ago, when my sister was a young single parent with a four-year-old son, she decided to do a degree at a university which promised lots of support for single parents: full-time childcare in a registered nursery; accommodation on campus throughout; all lectures and tutorials during nursery hours; and several other family-friendly policies. When she got there, she found that much of this wasn't true: accommodation on campus was only guaranteed for the first year; several of her lectures and tutorials were in the evening, when her son needed her to be at home; and so on. She lasted for two years of a four-year degree, during the second of which she lived off campus, and then gave up the struggle.
3. Just this year, my nephew, now all grown up, is about to finish a two-year further education course. At the start, he was told that it would provide a qualification equivalent to A levels, which would enable him to get onto a degree course with a foundation year. Last week, as he was finishing his UCAS form, he was told that this was not the case. Due to someone's administrative error, he will now have very little to show for two years of hard work and poverty. He is understandably angry and feels that he has been lied to - which, effectively, he has - and, with universities' funding being cut, he is now wondering whether he has any chance of a place at all.
So has my family simply been unlucky? Or is this kind of bums-on-seats-at-any-cost, administratively inefficient, misleading way of 'selling' courses actually endemic throughout the further and higher education systems in the UK?