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Monthly Archives

March 2014

Universities warned over preventing graduation because of debt

By London Student, National News

A report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) warned universities last month that terms and conditions that prevent students who owe non-tuition fee debts from graduating could breach consumer protection law.

The Office of Fair Trading has warned universities preventing students from graduating became of debt could breach consumer law.

The report, published on 18 February, showed that approximately three quarters of the 115 UK universities surveyed by the OFT enforce such conditions, which could also prevent students from enrolling into their next academic year or using certain university facilities.

Non-tuition fee debts can include library fines, university accommodation and childcare services.

In a letter sent to 170 universities and higher education institutions, the OFT has asked for a review of such rules and practices, urging the revision of them where required.

The regulator has also expressed further concern that some of these existing terms can allow institutions to impose sanctions on students who owe only small amounts or are disputing their debt.

The investigation was opened in July 2013 following a complaint from the National Union of Students (NUS), who welcomed the report.

Colum McGuire, NUS vice president (welfare) commented, “It’s almost laughable that students who are in thousands of pounds of tuition fee debt were having academic sanctions placed on them for money owned for non-academic debt”.

Queen Mary University of London, which currently withholds official graduate certificates and transcripts if a student has an unpaid ‘academic debt’, defended its position by stating that these students are still entitled to receive informal notifications of their results.

“The recent OFT report has been discussed within the Academic Registry and Council Secretariat at Queen Mary, and will be discussed by other departments, as a priority, over the coming weeks.”

The OFT has stated that the results of this investigation will be fed into its call for information into the provision of undergraduate higher education in England.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 8 (10/03/2014)

Students fight closure of school at Kingston University

By London Student, National News


Angry students and staff have protested against the closure of Kingston University’s School of Surveying and Planning.

Last Tuesday around 60 people rallied against proposals which would involve six of the school’s courses being scrapped, with seven others being moved to various faculties.

The School of Surveying and Planning at Kingston University is set to close.

A petition opposing the closure with over 1,000 signatures was handed to the university’s board during the 4 March protest.

Dr Sarah Sayce, the head of the school, was suspended after emailing students information about a consultation process on the plans, which could mean students having to complete their studies at other universities.

Denza Gonsalves, president of Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU), said: “Over 500 students will be directly affected in terms of their course moving faculty or closing down completely, and of course that’s of massive concern.”

Will Franden, KUSU vice president, highlighted concerns about the movement of faculties, telling River Online: “Students are worried about whether those faculties and lecturers will be fully qualified to teach them to the same standard as staff within the [existing] school.”

Julius Weinberg, the university’s vice-chancellor, said that the plans were motivated by low National Student Survey scores and poor recruitment figures.

However, building surveying student Nick Beers told River Online the school was not to blame for low recruitment numbers: “The independent report commissioned by the vice chancellor highlights the fact that no money has been spent on recruitment on the school as a whole, so to blame recruitment figures… is ridiculous.”

An open meeting with the dean of the university’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture is due to take place on Wednesday 12 March.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 8 (10/03/2014)

Vast majority vote for ULU to remain in student hands

By London Student, University of London News


The majority of participants in a referendum held by the University of London Union (ULU) have voted against university management plans to scrap the union.

86% of the 4,545 students who took part in the referendum, which closed on 7 February, voted ‘yes’ to the question “Should ULU’s building, activities and campaigns continue to be run democratically by students?”

University of London’s (UoL) current plans involve closing the democratic representation functions of the union with management taking over its current facilities in order to create a ‘New Student Centre’.

Heythrop College and Goldsmiths have yet to contribute their results due to “political” and logistical issues, but both are expected to do so at a later date.

Adrian Smith, UoL’s vice-chancellor, was principal at Queen Mary in 2005 when the the possibility of absorbing the students’ union into the college as a department was considered.

Michael Chessum, president of ULU, said the result proved that proposals to abolish the union have “no legitimacy”.
“Any notion that the university’s plans had any sort of public support are now out the window,” he said.

Shelly Asquith, chair of National Union of Students London said: “It is clear that students are rejecting the university’s proposals, and the University of London must respect that.”

But UoL said they were standing by the conclusions of their own review and criticised the referendum on the grounds that those who voted were “only a tiny minority, just 3.75% of our total student population.”

However, just 826 students – 0.6% of the student body – responded to the university’s own survey on the student centre plans late last year.

A university spokesperson insisted the survey and referendum were “two completely different things” and said the survey was to see students’ opinions and would not “be used directly to create policy.”

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 8 (10/03/2014)