Top uni still refusing to let students graduate if they have library debt
One of the UK's top universities has been withholding degrees from students because they have unpaid debts, including library fees.
An investigation by The Times has revealed that the University of Glasgow is refusing to hand over certificates or re-enroll any students who have outstanding library debts, or who haven't paid the compulsory fee to join its General Council.
Around 50 students have been affected over the past five years, despite unis promising to ditch unfair practices such as this after the CMA deemed it unacceptable last year.
Not only had these students completed all coursework and exams in time for graduation, but the uni were withholding certificates over debts as low as £25.
Worryingly, the total number of students affected is thought to be much higher than the report suggests, because the figures don't factor in those who still have outstanding accommodation fee debts.
Are unis allowed to do this?
The practice of degree-withholding over debts has been happening for years (Save the Student first reported it back in 2013).
However, back in December unis pledged they would no longer prevent students from graduating due to debts after intervention from the CMA, which warned any unis failing to comply could face legal action.
A spokesperson for Glasgow Uni has said that whilst they will stand by their promise for new students, they won't apply the change retrospectively.
The University of Glasgow has altered its definition of academic debt following representations from the CMA.
This will not be applied retrospectively as we do not consider that our past policy breached consumer law.
But the Vice president for Education at Glasgow Uni has said that since the revised policy came into force back in December, no student should be prevented from graduating over non-academic debt.
NUS Scotland president Vonnie Sandlan has said:
Instead of using academic sanctions to punish students who find themselves in debt in the future, universities need to start looking at how they can better support students to ensure they don’t get into debt in the first place.
Other unis on the naughty list
The CMA first issued UK unis with a warning last July, insisting that they needed to amend or ditch some policies that were unfair to students.
Three unis – Buckingham, Bucks New, and Birkbeck – were the first to be told they must make changes, or face legal action.
These included the following:
- ending the use of terms that prevent students from progressing or graduating if they owe non-academic debts
- improving the information provided to prospective students regarding additional course costs
- amending terms that allowed a wide discretion to vary tuition fees and improving information provision regarding fee variation
- ensure terms in the complaints processes do not deter students from raising or continuing to pursue complaints.
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