University of Glasgow Debt Policy

Following CMA intervention, the University of Glasgow will not prevent students from graduating or re-enrolling because of non-tuition fee debts.

The Competition and Markets Authority have today announced that the University of  Glasgow has given them an undertaking to change the terms of their debt policy. The CMA had believed that the current wording of the policy  could unfairly prevent students from re-enrolling or graduating if they owed non-tuition fee debts, such as unpaid accommodation or library fees.

GUSRC welcomes this announcement having been in discussion with both the University and the CMA on this issue since the turn of the year.

The full press release from the CMA can be read here:

“The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has welcomed the university’s undertaking to change a contractual term that, in the CMA’s view, could unfairly prevent students from re-enrolling or graduating if they owe non-tuition fee debts, such as unpaid accommodation or library fees.

The CMA’s investigation found evidence that the university had written to students threatening to prevent, and in some cases then blocking, their re-enrolment until the non-tuition fee debts had been paid. This even applied to relatively small debts, which only needed to be above £25.

Gordon Ashworth, Director of Consumer Enforcement, said:

As a result of a change in personal circumstances, students may get into debt. 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. Students shouldn’t be prevented from graduating or re-enrolling for the following year’s study because they owe money for non-tuition fee debts, like accommodation or library arrears.

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.

The CMA published advice for higher education providers on how to comply with consumer protection law in March 2015, as well as complementary advice on consumer rights for students.

Following that work, the CMA undertook a compliance review and published the results in July 2016. The CMA has secured commitments from five universities, including the University of Glasgow. Further information about the compliance review and the action taken to date against universities, is on the case page.”

SRC Vice President (Education) Kate Powell has said of the outcome: 

“This decision is the culmination of a long discussion between GUSRC and the University. The University has worked with us and reviewed its policy on linking academic sanctions to debt recovery.  Whilst the University had good intentions with its previous policy, it didn’t have the right to apply it. We know that there are many other institutions in Scotland and the UK breaking the law in this way and we are pleased that Glasgow has been at the forefront in changing its policy to apply the law in full. We hope that this decision will serve as notice to other Scottish Universities that the practice of  denying graduation to students who have some kind of non- academic debt, for example University Halls rent arrears, must stop.”