Strathclyde University scrap graduation fees dubbed ‘stealth tax on achievement’

Ben Wray

Fees have been described as ‘a stealth tax on achievement’ by the President of NUS Scotland

  • Scrapping of the graduation fees at Strathclyde University is effective immediately
  • 70 per cent of Scottish Universities have graduation fees – a charge on students when graduating
  • NUS Scotland research has found students can pay up to £225 to graduate in winter, including associated costs

THE University of Strathclyde has abolished graduation fees for students, a move warmly welcomed by the students’ union, which has campaigning against what has been described as ‘a stealth tax on achievement’.

Students had been paying £35 to attend a graduation ceremony and £20 to graduate if they did not attend their ceremony at the university. The change will come into effect for students graduating this summer.

An FoI by the National Union of Students Scotland in January found that winter graduation could cost a student as much as £225 to graduate, including associated costs. 70 per cent of universities in Scotland have graduation fees, and 16 per cent of colleges.

Strathclyde students’ union had been campaigning against the fees, and student President Matt Crilly said of the announcement: “I’m so happy about this! After years of studying, everyone should be able to enjoy their graduation regardless of their financial situation. 

READ MORE: Liam McCabe: Graduation fees are a stealth tax on students – time to scrap them

“This will go a long way in helping students, and the Student Union will still be supporting students who struggle with the cost of gown hire. I thank the University for listening to the student voice.”

Professor Sara Carter, Associate Principal at the university, said: “The University of Strathclyde works in close partnership with Strathclyde Students’ Union and, through partnership working, we became aware of concerns about graduation ceremony fees. 

“Graduations are the highlight of the academic year, eagerly anticipated by graduates, their families and friends as well as by staff in Academic Departments and Schools and in Professional Services. 

READ MORE: Students’ Union oppose 42% increase in post-grad taught fees at University of Strathclyde

“I am delighted that the University has agreed to remove both the £20 fee to graduate in absentia and the £35 ceremony attendance fee with immediate effect, ensuring that students graduating in summer 2019 will be able to benefit.” 

Writing in CommonSpace last month, NUS Scotland President Liam McCabe wrote: “Institutions the length and breadth of Scotland continue to tax by stealth the achievements of their students…For the students of Scotland who have commuted back and forth, sank thousands of pounds of rent into halls and private accommodation, have lost potential income to participate in education, and subjected themselves to tremendous stress and difficulty, a lack of finance should never be a barrier to any facet of education – including their graduation.”

READ MORE: NUS Scotland calls for “root and branch” reform of financial support for poorest students

In 2017 NUS Scotland called for a “root and branch” reform of financial support for higher education students in Scotland, following research which showed students from the lowest income backgrounds were taking on the highest student loans, with some finishing university with as much as £23,000 in student debt. 

In November, CommonSpace reported on a 42 per cent increase in post-graduate taught fees at Strathclyde University, according to analysis by the students’ union. 

The University of Strathclyde’s principal, Sir Jim McDonald, earns £366,000 per year, up from £290,000 in 2012. The University has also bought a five-story Glasgow townhouse worth £1.2 million for McDonald’s personal use in 2013.

Picture courtesy of David Muir