Student body celebrates victory over student debts for rent and extra fees
STUDENTS at Glasgow University will no longer be stopped from graduating or re-enrolling because of non-tuition debts.
Student bodies celebrated the decision which saw Glasgow University change its stance over contractual agreements that previously restricted students laden with debt.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had expressed concerns due to the university’s policy of applying academic bans to students who owed rent arrears or library fees.
“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.” Gordon Ashworth
Speaking to CommonSpace in response to the news Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, said: “As students come to graduate, ready to leave university and enter the world of work, or enrol in another year of study, universities should be doing all they can to support their students to progress and develop.
“All universities should be looking at how they can support their students and better help those who do face financial stresses, ensuring that they’re not held back by their financial circumstances. Equally, at a national level we need to ensure that all students have sufficient financial support to cover their living costs while they study, so no student is reliant on debt in order to get a degree.”
The CMA’s investigation and report found evidence of threats from the university to students who owed what it termed “relatively small debts”. The motivation according to the CMA was to prevent and in some cases bar students’ re-enrolment until these non-tuition fee debts had been paid. Additionally, the threshold for a sanctioned debt was as low as £25 which was heavily criticised by the report.
“All universities should be looking at how they can support their students and better help those who do face financial stresses.” Vonnie Sandlan
Sandlan added: “There are, unfortunately, many reasons that students could fall into debt while studying – but it’s unacceptable and, as the CMA have confirmed, against the law for universities to punish students for circumstances that are often beyond their control. This only serves to deny them the chance to progress or get the degree they've worked so hard to achieve."
Gordon Ashworth, director of consumer enforcement at CMA, said: “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. 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.”
In a statement, a spokesperson from the University said: “The university has altered the terms of its student debt policy following representations from CMA. We will continue to provide what support and advice we can to students with financial difficulties and conduct such actions reasonably to assist in any debt clearing.”
Picture courtesy of lanan
Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.