The University of Liverpool has dropped its controversial policy of “academic sanctions” for students who failed to meet rent payments.
These sanctions denied students access to facilities such as the library, their email accounts, Wi-Fi and the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VITAL). In some cases, students were unable to graduate or re-enrol.
These changes come after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Office for Students (OfS) took action against the University, who applied these policies to over former and current students.
Liverpool has since begun to take steps to stop the practice and formally committed to address the CMA’s consumer protection law concerns.
The changes instilled will ensure that students will not be penalised in their academic studies for non-tuition fee debt.
According to the CMA, more than 2000 students had been affected by these sanctions between the 2015/16 and 2017/18 academic years.
Students who received sanctions were 12.9% less likely to move on to the next year of study and twice as likely to re-sit exams or repeat the year.
Despite numerous complaints from their Guild of Students, Liverpool remained one of six UK institutions still using the system of academic sanctions.
Guild President Rory Hughes said: “The University’s public accounts show they are making a substantial surplus from the sky-high rent they are charging.
Pushing students into financial hardship and pricing others out of the halls experience to achieve these figures is unjustifiable
– Rory Hughes
“Pushing students into financial hardship and pricing others out of the halls experience to achieve these figures is unjustifiable.
“Their public accounts also show that they are hiking rents because they can, not because there are necessarily increased costs each year. This is extraction pure and simple.”
The cheapest university accommodation for the 2019/20 academic year costs £5,399.94 at Liverpool, and the most expensive is £8,315.58. The average UK maintenance loan is £7,200.
Mr Hughes said that using the sanctions to recoup money “makes the University of Liverpool nothing other than a dodgy landlord”.
CMA’s Senior Director for Consumer Protection, George Lusty, said: “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.
“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.”