According to the minutes of a meeting of the University's Finance Committee on the 30th of May, at that time 2,370 students were in debt to the University to the value £3.8 million. This amounts to student debt to the university doubling in the period from May 2011.
The plans will allow the most heavily indebted students to continue their studies while paying back their debt to the University in installments. Previously, students who were unable to pay back the debt owed to the University were unable to register at the beginning of the academic year to continue their studies.
This system of debt repayment - which has been common practise at many universities for years - allows students who owe the University less than £250 to register and enroll without difficulty and creates a system where those who hold larger amounts debt can create a repayment plan with the university. Although this is subject to approval by the University's Credit Control Team.
A university spokesman told the Guardian:
“We are extremely sympathetic to the issue of student debt and do all that we can to help those who have problems. Whilst it is true that the figures suggest there has been a rise in debt, this is largely because the university started the collection process in March, much later than in previous years. As payments have been made this figure has continued to fall, and we fully expect that the new enrolment period will lead to a further decline as returning students cannot enroll if they have an outstanding debt greater than £250.”
Additionally concerns were raised at University Court by Professor of Astrophysics Miles Padgett that the University was seeking to reclaim debt from thousands of students, by sending emails through MyCampus, who did not owe money and that the systems in place for gathering debt don't show a proper regard for student welfare.
The SRC welcomed the change in University policy with Vice President for Student Support, Jess McGrellis saying:
"The changes to the debt policy are positive for the personal and academic welfare of our students. Previously if a student had any outstanding debt then they would not be able to register and enrol for classes. Being in debt can already be a stressful situation for students, often alongside other difficult personal circumstances. Students can be in debt for any number of reasons, whether it be that there has been a death in the family or a family member has lost a job. Suspension of a student’s studies should be a last resort rather than the default position. Thus the SRC have been urging the university to consider cases of student debt on an individual basis. "
Since the implementation of MyCampus there has been an increase in the number of emailing and record mistakes. These mistakes can disrupt a student’s studying or add distress to a student’s wellbeing. Hopefully these problems will be rectified soon, however if you do think that your record is wrong and that you do not have debt then you should contact the Student Accounts Receivable Team at [email protected].