Horticulture college apologises for confusing students

A horticultural college has apologised for causing confusion after lack of communication led some students to think it had closed.

The Horticultural Correspondence College (HCC) which offered a range of courses, including RHS certificates and diplomas in horticulture, has been "forced to undertake some restructuring" since the death of its former owner, Oliver Menhinick, according to a message posted on its website.

The message says that existing students will be able to complete their courses but adds that it is not currently taking on new students.

Yesterday visitors to the website were greeted with blank pages with "shop closed" on it while at the time of writing the college telephone number listed has an answerphone message which says the college was closed for half term and "will be back in the office next week".

Over the past few weeks students were left baffled when the college was uncontactable.

RHS Level 3 student Sharon Floyd from Barnet, north London said she called the college last Monday but had only got the answerphone message.

"I thought the message was a bit weird and then I looked at the website and didn’t know what to do," she told HW. "But I saw the message on the website today and it all looks like it will be OK."

She said she had completed five out of eight assignments and had been worried about finishing.  

Floyd, who is currently paying for her course by monthly direct debit, completed a Level 2 qualification in 2011.

"It was brilliant, I thought the college was fabulous and the tutoring was great," she said.

"I know several people who have studied with them in the past and have no bad things to say about them, they were always good. Distance learning was the ideal way for me to do the course."

Horticulture Week was unable to contact the college directly.

HCC is listed on a document of distance learning providers which can be downloaded from the RHS website. It is also listed on the Grow Careers site.

A spokesman from the RHS said it was also unable to contact the college.

"HCC is a distance learning provider that we do not have any formal relationship with – they are not an approved centre that delivers RHS qualifications. We list on our site distance learning providers purely for information to help prospective students."

Oliver Menhinick MBE was the senior tutor emeritus at HCC until he died aged 76 in a road traffic accident on 22 March.

He studied at Writtle College from 1954-56 and was later head of horticulture at Lackham College for 35 years.

Students who are enrolled in distance-learning courses must be registered with an RHS-approved centre to sit their examinations.

Once registered they can still sit these exams regardless of the status of their college.

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