The EAE Business School, the next International Business University (UNIE) in the Community of Madrid, carries out such an aggressive campaign to recruit students that it even sends letters to the Spanish consulates in different Latin American countries assuring that future student X, with name and surname, has reserved a room at Calle de Joaquín Costa number 41 in Madrid for which he will pay 400 euros per month. In this way, it is ensured that the student receives the visa quickly, that they pay for the degree that (supposedly) will be stamped by the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC), to which they are attached until next academic year (when it will operate freely as private university) and that you travel thinking that everything is closed to spend a dream year in Spain. This dream, however, turns into a nightmare as soon as the student arrives with his suitcase at the indicated address and finds himself in a massive building where there are only classrooms. No room, no apartment. Any. “The EAE scam” already denounced by 200 students, most of them foreigners, has many tentacles and that is just one of them, perhaps the least attended by the deceived, which this course discovered shortly after starting that the master’s degree for which had paid more than 11,000 euros did not belong to the URJC. Now they focus their efforts, above all, on trying to recover their money.
Chisco, a Chilean student affected by the controversy of the EAE, showed that letter to his embassy to have the green light and travel to Spain. Like him, students from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia have shown this newspaper the emails perfectly sealed and signed by the school in which the center assured that they would have a room at their disposal that does not exist. “I had to get into an Airbnb that cost me 1,000 euros in a week,” says a Bolivian, who explains that not knowing the city he trusted the conditions of the first thing he found.
A spokeswoman for the EAE acknowledges that “even that letter is poorly written and gives room for misunderstanding”, but that the intention is that “the embassies have a place to turn to if they want to request information”. Why then specify the price of that room? “Well, it is an estimated price of what you will be able to find in Madrid…”, assures the spokeswoman. She also says that there is a service available there for all students with the aim of helping them find an accommodation. None have used it. “Because no one knows him,” reply several students.
That is “the first disappointment” experienced by Franca, a 37-year-old Peruvian, who went to live “in an apartment six blocks from [manzanas] from school”. The second came after Christmas, when he learned that some classmates were receiving an email in which the school admitted that there was “an administrative error”, the reason why they were not enrolled in the URJC, something for which they had paid precisely because that title was approved in his country. She was not among those affected and it surprised him. She had known a whole class of sufferers who had learned in stages what was happening. “I asked and they told me that there would be no problem with me,” she explains. Until there was. Even more serious than that of the others, because she was not offered any alternative to recover part of her money. “They told me that in my case it was my fault because, when I registered, I was missing some document,” she says angrily. And it was true. As is also the fact that the EAE assured her in writing, before charging the registration fee, that she would be able to deliver the rest of the documents “during the first four-month period”. At that time, everything was easy and they immediately sent her her account number so that she could pay the first payment. And she did. And she received a welcome email: congratulations, “she is enrolled and admitted to the Master in Management, accredited by the Rey Juan Carlos University”.
Then came the problems. It was useless to show that email to which this newspaper has had access. They denied him the registration in the URJC and also the refund of the money. And she found herself “trapped” in Madrid. “They told me that if I wanted to unsubscribe, I should do so, but that they were not going to reimburse me at all,” she lamented. Like her, there are 80 more students who are in that situation, that is, the EAE has told them that the administrative ruling, in this case, was theirs. The school puts them at 39, “because 41 have already delivered the missing documents and they will have the three options to choose from due to the lack of the URJC degree.” Right now, however, there are still those affected who find themselves without options to choose from, without an official title and without money. “They have begun to solve it because it came out in EL PAÍS, but before they didn’t even answer the messages,” Chisco complains.
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The cost of each step is important in this story full of lies that begins with the aggressive recruitment of students, 60% of them foreigners. Advertising promises high-level master’s degrees and postgraduate degrees, a degree from the URJC and guaranteed recognition in their countries of origin. And not at a bargain price. There are courses of 11,000, 14,000, 18,000 and up to 30,000 euros if it is a double degree. At first everything is easy. The first thing they put at the student’s service is the school’s account number so they can pay the tuition. They assure them in writing that there is time to deliver the documents and they charge the registration fee, 30% of the total price. Then they receive the welcome email.
The machinery then begins. They save, ask for a credit or money from their relatives, pack their bags and pay for a flight to Madrid. And immediately they prepare to disburse the rest of the money: if they decide to pay everything at once, they will have a discount and will pay, at the beginning of the master’s degree, 80% of the final price; if they decide to pay month by month, there will be no discount. A large majority choose the first option. The EAE has already captured them. 11,000, 14,000, 18,000… The cash register in October of each year of the EAE raises its digits until it exceeds, by far, three and a half million euros. All correct and legal, as long as it complies with what it offers.
“We are a serious school that has been teaching for 60 years without problems”, defends the EAE spokeswoman. However, there were already previous “fraud” complaints. One of them, in fact, published on the OCU website in May of last year. Until everything has blown up this course. At first the EAE denied any ruling, but ended up acknowledging “an administrative error” which meant that at least 200 people studying a master’s degree accredited by the URJC will not receive the degree from this university. Internal sources assure that it was an origin error. The school tried to enroll more students than it could and others after the deadline. The center has not denied it, although it hides behind the fact that there have been failures derived from “the process of disassociation with the university” and that it has been more inflexible than other years. The URJC defends that everything has been in accordance with the law: it enrolls the number of students predetermined for each course and within the established times. “Those who did it in a timely manner will have their title stamped by the URJC,” they insist.
The business school admits “some errors” and ensures that it has opened “an internal investigation” to determine “what internal procedures have failed.” Although he tries to right the wrong before it gets out of hand. “We have already reached an agreement with 70% of those affected,” he explains, that is, with part of the 115 who were sent the letter in which they were offered three alternatives. The first consisted of returning 30% of the amount paid with the registration if they continued with the course and accepted that the UNIE, which is not yet constituted, issued them an official degree from next year. The second proposed the return of 50% of the registration paid if they continued with their course, with the possibility of having a 60% discount on the registration for the next course at UNIE. The third involved the full refund of tuition. None of the options satisfied the majority of students. They had saved just over 20,000 euros to study in Spain and, in the best of cases, they will return to their countries with half the money, without a degree and with a year lost.
And there are still many of those who promised a period of four months to deliver all their documents that have closed the door on them, for now. Just like the alleged 400-euro apartment on Calle de Joaquín Costa, which never existed. “They told me in the secretariat that I had to be happy to receive this education,” complains a boy from Bolivia. “And what else did an official title or not.”
Against the criteria of the University Council
The UNIE will be born in September with this controversy behind it and with a negative report from the University Council: nine votes against the project, corresponding to the representatives of five public universities and their social councils, no vote in favor of the university project and seven abstentions, including those of the Rey Juan Carlos University. “There is no calendar for the incorporation of the necessary teaching and research staff, nor clear information on their academic category and their accredited teaching and research experience. With the data that is provided, the assignment of teachers to the teaching staff is exaggerated and results in very poor planning. unrealistic,” they explained in the report. Despite this, the project went ahead in November 2020 thanks to the votes of PP, Cs and Vox.
“The information on the research activity and the intention to generate a doctoral program in a short time does not go beyond a declaration of intent”, recalled the representatives of the University Council. “It should be remembered that, with the current legislation, the criteria that define the research activity and the guarantees necessary to be able to have a doctorate program are totally objectified. In such a way that it is easy to demonstrate whether or not one has these potentialities. In some places From memory, it can be understood that the majority of current teachers do not currently have their research experience accredited”, they continue. And they finish off the letter, which is mandatory but not binding: “The name of International in the name of this University proposal is striking. There is nothing special, in our opinion, in the report that proves that name against those who has been doing in the field of internationalization in the rest of the public and private Universities of this Community”.
The controversy uncovered by this newspaper reached the Madrid Assembly last Monday. United We Can criticized the “lack of control” of the new private universities promoted in the Community of Madrid and demanded the opening of a “solid, firm and rigorous” investigation. “This scandal shows the lack of control of the Ayuso government over the private universities it is approving,” said the deputy and spokesperson for Education of United We Can in the Assembly Agustín Moreno. “Enrolling more students for profit-seeking reasons indicates malpractice and gives reason to those who say that these universities are business beach bars that sell easy degrees for those who can pay for them,” he said.
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