This week, I was shocked to discover that, as a final year student, I have to pay a £50 compulsory fee in order to enroll for graduation. If this isn’t a confirmation that universities are simply businesses, I’m not sure what is. Regardless of the fact that the University hasn’t provided its students with a justifiable reason for the fee, it is yet another thing kept quiet, more than likely hidden in the fine-print "Terms and Conditions" of a filing cabinet deep within the back of Student Services. Edinburgh University doesn’t charge its students to simply walk across a stage and gain what they worked hard for, so how is it acceptable for Glasgow to throw on this unnecessary fee?
Final year students are facing the most important exams of their degrees, and such financial blackmail should not add to their stress and worries, particularly for those who are unsure of how they will pay this charge. Without over-emphasising the tribulations of the working class, I’m a student that has had to give up the job that has funded my livelihood during my three and half years of studies, and since, I’ve been depending on an overdraft to fund my costs of living. Additionally, a £200 "Crisis Loan" which I received from the University will also hold me back from graduating if I don’t pay it first – another form of financial discrimination employed by the University, which in effect holds me personally to ransom until my financial circumstances change - a post-graduation likelihood. Molly Shearer-White (fourth year, Politics and Philosophy) claims that she is angered by the fee which she has to pay despite the fact she isn’t going to her graduation. Students are expected to pay £50 for a piece of paper and email that they need, whether attending or not, and it isn’t right.
In response to the University Rector Aamer Anwar’s tweets questioning the University’s graduation fee, a spokesperson for the University of Glasgow responded: ‘’The University of Glasgow has already taken the decision to abolish the £50 graduation fee from 2019/20 and the student experience committee is currently looking at bringing this forward to this year- 2018/19. We shall be in a position to make an announcement on this is in the near future. Gown hire is provided by an external company and it is up to individual students whether they should pay for this cost.’’ What can be questioned in the University’s response on Twitter is how it is possibly proposing to abolish the fee for final students this year, when they have already opened enrolment and began taking payments. It doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t believable. Paying students who questioned where their money was going during the strikes received ambiguous responses and were not reimbursed, and so, unless pigs can fly, one can presume that final years will not receive their money back. Again, the University has failed to address the purpose of this fee and heightened students worries further with the realisation of an additional £42 robe hire on the day.
Whether a student is depending on financial support from wages, loans, overdrafts, or family support, no student or parents should be expected to pay a fee to graduate, or simply receive proof of their degree in absence of graduation. The University of Glasgow is one of the top ten richest universities in the UK. What do they need the £50 for that other institutions such as Edinburgh University don’t? I can only encourage students to voice this injustice by requesting that the University, despite the slimness of the possibility, reimburses those who have already paid the graduation enrollment fee, and takes a greater consideration of those who currently don’t have the means to pay.