One of the UK’s top universities is refusing to award degrees to students because they have debts including library fines and General Council fees, it has been revealed.
According to an investigation by The Times, Glasgow University has withheld qualifications from at least 50 students over the past five years, despite the fact they have completed all exams and coursework.
The NUS has criticised the practice as “outrageous” and “completely unacceptable”.
Last year, the university pledged to stop preventing students from graduating or re-enrolling on courses over debts after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority found the practice to be “unfair”.
But the newspaper reports Glasgow is still refusing to release student qualifications that have already been withheld over debts more than £25.
It is believed the number of students affected could be much higher, as the figures do not include those penalised for accommodation fee debts.
NUS Scotland president Vonnie Sandlan said: “Stopping a student graduating, or preventing them moving through university, denies that student any official recognition for their learning, and has the potential to be a huge waste of potential talent for society.”
She added: “Instead of using academic sanctions to punish students who find themselves in debt in the future, universities need to start looking at how they can better support students to ensure they don’t get into debt in the first place.”
Despite outrage among student representatives, the University of Glasgow has denied wrong-doing.
A spokesperson said: “The University of Glasgow has altered its definition of academic debt following representations from the Competitions and Markets Authority.
“This will not be applied retrospectively as we do not consider that our past policy breached consumer law.”
Vice president for Education at Glasgow University’s student’s representative council (GUSRC) Kate Powell added: “The decision to amend the debt policy was the culmination of long discussion between GUSRC and the university.
“Whilst the university had good intentions with its previous policy, it didn’t have the right to apply it,” she said.
“Since the amended policy came into force in December 2016 there should be no students prevented from registering or graduating from the university for outstanding non-academic debt.”
The investigation found that Dundee University and St Andrews also have policies that prevent students from re-enrolling on their courses if they owe money.