Disappointed with Student Debt campaign progress

The SRC are disappointed about the progress made by the University following the release of the Office Fair Trading report regarding sanctions on students with non-academic debt.

As some of you will be aware the SRC carried out a campaign in relation to the University’s Debt Policy here at University of Glasgow. The executive last year were involved in an investigation carried out by the Office Fair Trading. Information about progress of the campaign last here can be found in our 2013-2014 campaign on University Debit Policy

We have been talking to the University over the last few years about their debt policy, and most importantly, the impact this has on students who find themselves with money owed to the University. The current situation is that if you owe any money to the University you are unable to graduate or re-register for the next academic year. Regardless of how this debt accrued, or even if you have entered into a repayment plan everything grinds to a halt until the balance is paid off.

We understandably feel this is completely unfair to prevent students who have accrued non-academic debt to progress into the next year of their studies, and in February of this year the Office of Fair Trading agreed with us. They had been carrying out an investigation into University’s terms and conditions across the UK and issued a report which warned that any University which prevented students from graduating or continuing their studies due to “non-academic debt*” could be in breach of UK consumer protection laws.

However after a number of meetings with the University’s Senior Management in recent weeks the University have confirmed to the SRC that they will be continuing with their current debt policy, despite the OFT’s report and recommendations. This effectively means that if you owe the University a library fine of £10, accommodation fees of £200 or even field trip expenses of £25; you will not be able to continue studying and you will be stopped from enrolling in your course. This is incredibly disappointing to hear from an institution where student welfare should be out at the forefront. Students who cannot enrol in their courses for the next academic year can come across a number of hardships which can place them at a disadvantage to their peers. Students who are not allowed to enrol due to debt might end up having to take a year out of University in order to pay off their debts. This may lead to a lower chance of them returning and completing their course. It may also cause extra stress as students will need to find employment and change accommodation. Students in this situation may also lose out on places in highly competitive classes, I know from experience that some classes fill up in a matter of minutes after Moodle opens up for registration, and if you do not have your fees paid off by this time you may miss the opportunity to study a subject which you had intended on taking.

We do not think it is fair that students are not allowed to register for the next academic year, even on an agreed payment plan for their non-academic debts. We are therefore encouraging any students who are being prevented from graduating or re-registering for the next academic year to get in touch with the SRC Advice Centre who can assist you in trying to resolve this issue.

* non-academic debt means debt owed to the University for anything other than your tuition fees, e.g. accommodation fees, library fines, field trip expenses etc.