Following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and negotiations between the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and the University, students will no longer be prevented from graduating or re-enrolling due to non-tuition fee debts.
According to an investigation by the CMA, the University of Glasgow had threatened to prevent students from progressing to their next year of study, or from graduating, should they have outstanding fees. Up until now, a non-tuition fee debt of £25 was enough for the University to prevent students from re-enrolling or graduating. Such fees could be accommodation-related, or library-related fees. The CMA described such measures as “unfair”, and welcomed the contractual change.
As it stands, students will be free to graduate and re-enrol, even with non-academic fees of over £25. Following graduation, students will work with the University in order to come up with a repayment plan in order for the University to be paid back.
Many universities across Scotland and the UK continue to prevent students from graduating or progressing due to non-academic debts. However, some establishments have already changed their policies on the subject – such as University College London (UCL) which revised its student debt policy on 13 November 2014 following CMA action, ensuring that students could no longer be prevented from graduating or re-enrolling due to non-academic debt.
Gordon Ashworth, Director of Consumer Enforcement at the CMA said: “As a result of a change in personal circumstances, students may get into debt. Whilst it’s right that universities are able to recover legitimate debts owed to them, they should do so in a way that is fair and proportionate. Students shouldn’t be prevented from graduating or re-enrolling for the following year’s study because they owe money for non-tuition fee debts, like accommodation or library arrears.
“We welcome the University of Glasgow’s co-operation and constructive engagement with the CMA. We are also grateful to the Glasgow University Students Representative Council for their assistance with this case. The CMA expects all universities to comply with consumer law by giving students accurate and timely information about their courses, treating them fairly, and enabling them to complain if things go wrong.”
Kate Powell, the SRC’s Vice President for Education, said: “This decision is the culmination of a long discussion between GUSRC and the University. The University has worked with us and reviewed its policy on linking academic sanctions to debt recovery. Whilst the University had good intentions with its previous policy, it didn’t have the right to apply it. We know that there are many other institutions in Scotland and the UK breaking the law in this way and we are pleased that Glasgow has been at the forefront in changing its policy to apply the law in full. We hope that this decision will serve as notice to other Scottish Universities that the practice of denying graduation to students who have some kind of non-academic debt, for example University Halls rent arrears, must stop.”