University drops sanctions against students with unpaid rent

After an intervention from the Competition and Markets Authority, the University of Liverpool says it will allow students to graduate if they have debts unrelated to their fees

The University of Liverpool has agreed to drop its policy of prohibiting students with unpaid rent or fines from graduating.

After an intervention from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the university has changed its student debt penalty policy.

The university agreed it will no longer issue academic sanctions – which can also include the removal of library or email access – for students who have debts unrelated to their fees.

All universities and other higher education providers should be mindful of today’s CMA announcement and ensure that their debt collection policies comply with consumer law – Susan Lapworth, Office for Students

The Office for Students (OfS) has welcomed the announcement. Susan Lapworth, director for competition and registration at the OfS, said: “The fair treatment of students is important to us as a regulator. All universities and other higher education providers should be mindful of today’s CMA announcement and ensure that their debt collection policies comply with consumer law.

“Our own regulatory framework sets out the need for universities to demonstrate they are complying with consumer protection law, and we will continue to support the important work of the CMA on these issues.”


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The CMA said more than 2,000 students were affected by the university’s policy. A spokesperson for the university 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.”

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.”

Similar policies have been halted at other universities including UCL, University of Glasgow and University of Buckingham.


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