Rebates for fee paying students?

The University of the West of Scotland has proposed that fee paying students should get refunded if they fail to achieve a degree. On the face of it, this could be a reasonable proposal to put forward as fee paying students will spend more money than those who are Scottish or within the EU.

The proposal originates from the Principal’s belief that publicly funded universities will need to become more like the privately funded ones. This is due to the competition that public universities face. Furthermore, he then went on to claim that they must treat students like customers and the universities should therefore tend to the student, find out there needs and try to resolve their problems.

While the proposal seems like a rational and achievable thing to do, it does come across as a marketing gimmick to attract more international students. The more international students attend, the more funding the university will get and if fewer students fail then that means more money for the university. There is also a significant difference between students that fail and those that simply drop out. Failing something implies there is an element of effort on the part of the student whereas dropping out implies they “failed” for other reasons. There are claims that there would be a lot of regulation and restriction on this kind of policy, but if there were loopholes could a student hypothetically fail their degree on purpose to get their money back? At this point there are a lot of flaws needing ironed out.

It also reinforces the common view that universities are becoming more money oriented rather than focusing on encouraging and allowing students to flourish and reach their full potential. Universities across Scotland are becoming more and more oversubscribed. As a result students simply become numbers, with the university trying to obtain as much money from fee paying students as possible. The proposal would attract more international students and fee paying students whilst doing little to attract or encourage Scottish students to attend universities in the country.

[Lamorna Brown]

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