OFT warns universities about sanctions on students in debt
The Office of Fair Trading has written to more than 170 universities and other higher education groups to warn that the widespread practice of stopping students graduating or continuing with their course if they owe money over issues such as late library books or childcare services could breach consumer laws.
The OFT investigated the issue after a complaint from the National Union of Students (NUS) and found that about three-quarters of institutions had terms and conditions for students that could stop them graduating or moving to the next year of their course over unpaid non-tuition fee debts. It has written urging them to review such conditions and change them as needed.
The OFT says it will work with Universities UK, the representative body for universities, to “encourage increased awareness and compliance with the law”.
The watchdog said: “The OFT considers that the blanket use of academic sanctions in such instances, regardless of the circumstances, could breach consumer protection law. It is particularly concerned that some terms allow the university to impose sanctions on students even when they owe small amounts or a debt is disputed.”
Nisha Arora, from the OFT, said some universities had other approaches to the issue and others needed to change their approach: “Preventing progression or graduation not only affects students’ educational experience but could also significantly harm their future employment prospects and ability to pay off their debts.”
Read full article: The Guardian