Imagine if one day, with only a few weeks until graduation, you arrived at Uni to attend your weekly classes only to find the entire university had been shut down with no warning?
In October last year WIN news aired a story in its daily bulletin showing angry students outside of the Beauty and Hair Academy of Australia (BHA), which had suddenly closed, leaving them high and dry.
One of these students left in the lurch was 21-year-old Hayley Russell.
While the closure did not receive much further coverage, the reality is all too real for ex-students like Hayley eight months on.
After starting a course in Graphic Design, Hayley quickly realised makeup was her true passion.
She searched and around stumbled across the Beauty and Hair Academy of Australia.
The course it offered was ideal: it was a year long and was made up of three units covering hair, makeup, and special effects makeup, something Hayley had always wanted to try and could see herself having a career in.
It was also located at the Academy’s newly opened campus in Geelong, ideal for Hayley to catch the train to from her home in Colac.
She was also able to put the cost on a HECS debt as she could not afford to pay upfront.
She applied, was accepted, filled out all the necessary forms and was excited to arrive on her first day … only to be told she had not completed the necessary paperwork and was not actually officially enrolled.
Confused and frustrated, Hayley turned around and had to catch a train all the way back to Colac. “I should’ve really taken that as a sign,” Hayley says now.
From the beginning, every day was disorganised she said, with the students often sitting around for an hour after classes were meant to start before the teacher could actually work out what they were meant to be doing.
“It wasn’t the teachers’ fault, it was that they hadn’t been given the information,” Hayley stresses, as her teacher, who she loved, was also reportedly being left out of the loop by her employers.
But this was just the beginning of things that didn’t add up for Hayley and the other students. They were promised well-stocked makeup kits that took weeks to arrive and did not contain everything that was promised. Hayley’s teacher went to great lengths to get her students better quality makeup in smaller amounts just so they could learn and complete the course material.
Hayley also felt the assignments were a big let down and did not seem important to the course. Students had to work on folios throughout the year and complete theory work for each section in them, but Hayley felt the folios were pointless as they were allowed to be half done and students could copy information straight in with no originality. “I felt they didn’t even look at the books,” Hayley says.
She was also let down by the quality of the theory being taught, which she considered to be very basic and things she already knew.
When it came time for the special effects unit of the course, the students had to wait weeks for latex to arrive and the other necessary equipment.
The course also advertised that they had a specialist teacher for the special effects unit who had extensive experience with prosthetics and had worked on movie sets.
The weeks went by as they waited for this teacher to arrive, but no one came.
The beginning of the end started one day when Hayley was only weeks away from graduating.
She arrived at the BHA as usual, only to find it was closed. Puzzled, she messaged a fellow student who told her everyone had been sent a text message telling them classes had been cancelled that day. Hayley had received no message, and she had to turn around and go home. She was then told to not come in the next day either.
Shortly afterwards she received a text message from the BHA stating it was currently closed down, and students should no longer come to classes.
Chaos erupted as students were left at a complete loss. “Communication was bad” Hayley said, even before the closure, and afterwards was no different. With very little information given out, a few weeks later the students were invited to a meeting in Melbourne to discuss what was happening, with the option to attend via Skype, which Hayley did.
But the meeting offered few answers, with the BHA officials ignoring and avoiding questions, especially those about refunds and money.
Hayley says that, while the meeting did not go well, she was pleased by other means of contact from the Academy with options for her to finish the course elsewhere.
However, there were no suitable options for her as she would have to either repeat most of what she had already done or instead travel to other courses in Melbourne which, living in Colac with no license, she could not afford to do.
She also couldn’t afford to pay for any courses upfront, and many in her chosen field do not offer HECS debt options.
She settled for a Statement of Attainment for the work she had done during her time at the BHA.
But Hayley feels she was one of the lucky ones. She had put the course on a HECS debt, and was lucky enough to have part of it removed. But many of her fellow students had paid for the course upfront and were left in debt with few options.
Hayley has now had to settle for working a casual job as a waitress as she is still trying to figure out what to do. As a young person living out of home she cannot afford to move to another town or state to start or finish a course.
She, like many of her classmates, feel betrayed and let down by the BHA, which for many of them offered a dream course they would not have been able to attend anywhere else.
The Beauty and Hair Academy of Australia no longer appears to exist with their website shutdown and phone disconnected. They could not be contacted for comment.