Lay off indebted students, says NUS

August 24, 2001

Universities that pester students for unpaid tuition fees are subjecting them to undue pressure, according to the president of the National Union of Students.

Many institutions send regular letters to students who have not paid up, warning them of the possible consequences.

The University of the West of England revealed this week that it had sent letters to 2,200 students during the summer vacation.

NUS president Owain James said: "Even though there are some sympathetic institutions, the NUS believes that most universities employ a heavy-handed approach to collecting student debts.

"It is not a case of a few random letters being sent out by universities but of large-scale mailings threatening students who cannot afford to pay... Students don't need the added pressure of a threatening institution on top of dealing with their debt."

A UWE spokesman said some of the 2,200 letters concerned financial matters other than tuition fees, such as accommodation charges. For tuition fee non-payers, he said: "It's not the final link in the chain. This stage is something like the third reminder."

He added: "The worrying thing for us is when you have a student who hasn't told us that they have got a real problem with debt. If we can get them to come forward through reminder letters, it is a better position to be in."

UWE is one of a group of institutions chosen by the Higher Education Funding Council to develop a web-based system to help students find out what funds are available to them and to give them budgeting advice.

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