Concerns raised over cost of gown and hood hire, and whether the fee will be dropped for this year's graduates
The University has responded to complaints over compulsory fees for graduation, which students are required to pay to receive their degrees. Students are currently expected to pay £50, as well as the cost of gowns and hood hire from Ede & Ravenscroft, the only University appointed hire company.
Graduates are currently required to pay a fee for membership of the General Council, which must be paid regardless of whether the student attends the ceremony or not. The university has announced that fees will be abolished starting in 2019, a decision which was taken at a recent committee meeting.
A spokesperson for the university said: “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 in the near future.”
As it stands, students graduating this year will be expected to pay the £50 fee, on top of gown hire. After it was revealed that students were struggling to pay the fee, with some unable to attend the ceremony and receive their degrees, University Rector Aamer Anwar said: “Really sad that after studying so hard our […] students should not be able to graduate because of the cost.”
Regarding the decision to abolish fees from 2019 onwards, he added: “I hope they can apply it to this year’s graduates as no student should be priced out of their own graduation.”
The call to remove compulsory graduation fees has received the backing of student bodies. Jodie Waite, vice president of NUS Scotland, has reportedly said: “As the Scottish education sector strives to widen access to higher education, it can’t be right that graduation is based on the ability to pay.”
“Whether that’s ensuring students have financial support to remain in education, or overcoming the financial barriers they might face in graduating, graduation must be accessible to every student.”
Speaking to the Glasgow Guardian, SRC president Kate Powell explained that the proposal to remove this year’s graduation fee will be considered by the student experience committee shortly, adding, “we are hoping that they approve the proposal.” She gave assurances that students will be made aware of the decision as soon as possible.
Concerns were also raised about the cost of hiring gowns and hoods. Ede & Ravenscroft are the only hire company appointed by the university. In 2017, they were the subject of a complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority, alleging that exclusive contracts with universities drives up prices for students, creating a near monopoly market.
Commenting on the cost of gown hire, a university spokesperson said: “Gown hire is provided by an external company and it is up to individual students whether they choose to pay for this cost.”