University stops barring graduations over outstanding rent

More than 2,000 students affected by Liverpool’s ‘academic sanctions’ in two years

August 21, 2019
University of Liverpool

A UK university has pledged to stop barring students from graduating or using the library if they have outstanding fines or fall behind on rent.

The Competition and Markets Authority said that the University of Liverpool had signed a formal undertaking that it would not impose academic sanctions for non-tuition fee debts.

More than 2,000 students were affected by the policy between 2016 and 2018, which also led to students being unable to receive certificates or use computer services. The university had already taken steps to end the practice but the formal commitment will result in changes to its contract terms with students.

The change – which applies to both current and former students – follows CMA work initially launched in 2015, which saw action taken against the universities of Buckingham and Glasgow and UCL for similar policies.

George Lusty, the CMA’s senior director for consumer protection, said: “We appreciate that legitimate debts from students should be recovered, but to stop them from progressing in their studies or graduating for unrelated debts is unfair.

“We welcome the commitment to removing academic sanctions for non-tuition fee debt and expect all universities to bring an end to similar policies and treat students fairly.”

A Liverpool spokeswoman said: “The university had kept its approach to sanctions for non-payment of residential costs under review with its Guild of Students for some time. In February 2019, the university ceased applying its existing sanctions for residential debt and formally approved the change of approach prior to the CMA’s first contact with the university on this issue.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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