Ben HaywardAugust 21st
2019

The University of Liverpool has abandoned a controversial policy which could prevent students from graduating if they missed rent payments.   

The institution will no longer be able to impose ‘academic sanctions’ including library bans, removal of access to email services and stopping students from graduating for falling behind in paying accommodation fees, reports the Independent. 

The move comes after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched action against the university, which had placed over 2,000 students under academic sanctions between 2015 and 2018, and the Office for Students (OfC) warned that universities that impose library bans and blocked email access could face legal action.

The CMA, has taken action against a number of universities in recent years over the practice, with legally binding commitments now secured from Buckingham and Buckinghamshire New universities, as well as University College London (UCL) and the University of Glasgow.

Liverpool has now agreed to change its contract terms so that both current and former students will no longer be penalised, with  the senior director for consumer protection at CMA, George Lusty, saying: “This is great news for students at the University of Liverpool.

“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. 

Hannah Nguyen, vice-president at The Liverpool Guild of Students, that this year launched a ‘Cut the Rent’ campaign to reduce university accommodation prices said: "Students fell into rent arrears and [were] prevented from graduating; this fact cannot be disentangled from the cost of university accommodation."

“After a year of grassroots student activism, we have secured a £3.7m rent reduction for students living in university halls of residence, the single biggest cut in higher education, and an end to academic sanctions.

"This win is a credit to every student on our campus who signed the petition, went door-knocking, attended campaign meetings and supported the Guild’s fight for affordable accommodation and an end to unfair academic sanctions.”

A University of Liverpool spokesperson said: “The University of Liverpool offers a range of support options for students who are struggling financially and in the 2017-18 academic year we provided in excess of £22m in scholarships and bursaries to our students.”

The university also said they had actually stopped applying existing sanctions for residential debt before the CMA’s first contact with the university on this issue.

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