Universities Told to Treat Students Fairly

Posted by Richard Ward in

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The Competition and Markets Authority has told universities to deal with students more fairly and that some "still have work to do" to fully comply with consumer protection law.

In a letter to all higher education institutions the CMA noted that it had already taken targeted action to improve practices at three universities.

Over a year ago the CMA set out how universities should comply with consumer law, which included providing students with enough information so that courses could be compared. Subsequently in October the CMA began a review of institutions to ensure that they complied with the rules.

After reviewing the sector, the reported focused on 25 institutions that required closer study, whilst three were singled out for improvements.

These included the University of Buckingham, which was told it should no longer threaten, apply or rely upon academic sanctions to recover accommodation fees, library fines or other tuition debts. Bucks New University was told to drop a contact rule which invalidates student's complaints if they attend a graduation event and Birkbeck University London, which should no longer apply a rule that stops students using the complaint procedure if they have tuition fees debt.

Also of note was that universities could be in breach of consumer law if they worded contract clauses in a particular way. This included the use of "wide discretion to vary tuition fees or cancel or vary courses". Those universities that are not clear about additional costs or prevent students progressing or graduating if they own non-academic debts could also be in breach of the rules as could those that attempt to deter complaints.

The investigation has highlighted that some universities are taking the required steps but others still have some way to go.