Late PhD penalties criticised

March 9, 2001

Parents and students have attacked the practice of charging thousands of pounds to postgraduates who fail to complete their PhDs on time, writes Alison Goddard.

Students who have completed three years' research are being forced to pay tuition fees from their own pockets if they still require supervision. At the same time, they lose the stipend they receive from the research councils.

Owain James, president of the National Union of Students, said: "After three years, it's not really an option for students to throw away their work but they are faced with these fees. Institutions should recognise the huge costs that students face in continuing past three years."

A spokeswoman for Universities UK said there was no national policy on whether late PhD students should be charged fees.

The University of Southampton charges full tuition fees to students who have not finished a complete draft of a thesis.

The father of one student asked to pay a £2,740 bill described the fee as "extortionate".

Rex Knight, academic registrar at Southampton, said: "If it takes longer than three years to complete a piece of research, we charge a tuition fee to cover the costs of supervision. The funding regime for postgraduate research requires us to charge these fees."

A University College London spokeswoman said the university did not charge for supervision, use of laboratory space or writing up.

At Imperial College, London, students are given three months to write up, but must complete their studies a month after that if they are to gain the qualification.

The University of Warwick gives students a year's grace before charging a late fee of Pounds 105, according to a spokesman.

The University of Bristol charges £250 for students who need supervision in their fourth year.

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