Following lobbying by the Students' Union, the University have agreed to change their fees policy for students leaving their course temporarily or permanently to make it fairer to students and in line with national guidelines.
In June 2012, the Students’ Union discovered that the University intended to change its Withdrawal - Financial Refund or Rebate Policy.
This is the policy which states how much money a student is liable to pay the University if they withdraw after a set period from the beginning of term, either in the case of permanent withdrawal (including exclusion), or if they opt to temporarily withdraw (intermit).
We discovered a proposal to implement a policy which did not follow the government's guidance (see below).
This University policy would have meant students would be liable to pay an amount greater than their tuition fee loan if they were to withdraw in the first two terms, leaving them with a debt to the University if they were unable to make up the shortfall.
Students would be liable to pay the University £750 more than would be covered by their fee loan if they withdrew in the first term, or £1500 more than their fee loan if they withdrew in the spring term.
Guidance from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) - the department of UK Government responsible for Higher Education policy - is that an institution should charge home/EU undergraduate students who withdraw, either permanently or temporarily, a fee amount no greater than the fee loan to which the student is entitled.
This is also the position that the Students’ Union takes, and we additionally believe that there should be a period of grace at the beginning of each new academic year.
On discovering the University's proposal, we wrote to the University to raise serious concerns about how it would impact on students’ lives. We requested further consultation on the matter before the policy was finalised.
Despite numerous requests for information over the summer period, it wasn’t until 12th September that we received an update with information, in this case being that the policy would be available online within 24 hours. We found that the University would be putting forward a policy which went against the BIS guidelines.
The Students’ Union immediately contacted the University to again express our concern and disappointment, and the new policy was removed from the University’s website pending further discussion. We then contacted other universities to find out about their policies and compiled a table of comparisons, and contacted the National Union of Students for their guidance - they are now undertaking further research on the issue.
A pack of information was compiled and we presented this at a meeting with the University’s Finance Division on 20th September. The University agreed to research the matter and come back to us before they made a final decision the following week.
On Friday 28th September, it was confirmed that the University would be adopting a policy which follows BIS guidelines (i.e. that students are liable for an amount no greater than their loan), so that all fees will be covered by a tuition fee loan.
The Students’ Union is pleased that the University has taken into consideration our concerns on this issue, undertaken further research after being presented with our findings, and chosen to implement a policy with individual students’ best interests in mind.
Kelly, Students' Union President, said: "If a policy such as the one initially proposed had been implemented, we would have seen an adverse impact on individual students which, for reasons beyond many withdrawing students control, may have led to a situation where they were in debt to the University.
"Intermitting students for example may have been prevented from re-enrolling until the outstanding debt had been settled, which when not covered by a loan could be problematic. There could have been a real impact on chances of future study, and we could have seen withdrawing students initiated into a debt collection procedure.
"I am very pleased that the University has listened to the concerns of the Students' Union, considered what is in the best interests of students, and has subsequently adopted a fairer policy in line with the guidance and other institutions."
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