Sam Fearnley reports on the government’s latest warning to UCL over imposing academic sanctions on its students.
Early in summer 2015, Campbell House residents were given an ultimatum by UCL. Either they stopped their participation in the rent strike, or UCL would impose academic sanctions, including, but not limited to, a block on their re-enrollment and threats to graduation.
These threats generated considerable backlash. UCL eventually backtracked and removed the threats, but many were still appalled that they could make them in the first place.
Now, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has waded into the debate. The CMA is an independent non-ministerial government department that tries to investigate the operations of mergers, markets and regulated industries.
It says, on its gov.uk website, that it has sought and received assurances from UCL that this type of event will not happen again.
The statement says that UCL will “not threaten or apply academic sanctions on its students because they have a debt for UCL accommodation”, nor will it ” threaten or apply academic sanctions because they owe other non-tuition fee debts to the university”.
The CMA became involved in the dispute after information from the consumer regulator Which? and UCLU was disseminated to them. The CMA subsequently raised its concerns to UCL that it may be breaching consumer law.
Nisha Arora, who is a senior director at the CMA has said:
“Students shouldn’t be prevented from graduating or re-ennrolling because they owe money for accommodation or other non-academic services. We welcome UCL’s co-operation and commitment to complying with consumer law, which will be to the benefit of its students”.
The CMA has provided a guide for students, regarding their consumer rights. It also provides information on how undergraduates can report a possible breach of consumer law by a higher education provider.
Featured image credit: Sam Fearnley