Professor Craig Mahoney, principal and vice-chancellor of The University of the West of Scotland (UWS), has announced the possible introduction of a rebate system for fee-paying students who fail to attain their degree.
If approved, UWS would become the first institution in the UK to refund their failed students, and the scheme would greatly benefit hundreds of international and rest of UK (rUK) students in attendance at UWS.
Professor Mahoney stressed the importance of such moves in the face of increased global competition: “It is my firm belief that the UK’s publicly-funded universities won’t have a particularly attractive future unless they become more commercially sensitive and begin to act more like private industry – including private higher education providers – to allow us to remain competitive across the globe.
“We have to acknowledge that students are customers and we have to meet customer expectations. To do that, we have to know who our customers are and understand their needs and desires.
“We also have to be more flexible and take bigger, bolder and faster decisions to make sure we anticipate – not react to – our student market.
The customer is truly king and we need to recognise that.”
He told The Student: “There are, I would add, terms and conditions associated with this concept, it is not university policy and has not yet been the topic of wide discussion and debate across the university.”
Meanwhile Scottish students, who make up the majority of the UWS student body, and students from the European Union will not be affected by the new refund policy as they do not pay tuition fees.
Robert Foster, vice-president of The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland, described the suggestion as “novel” but voiced concern on other aspects of the move.
“We’d expect every university to consider more seriously how we best support all students to reach their full potential while ensuring we reject any notions of marketisation or seeing students as customers of a product.
“In saying that, only those who have paid fees themselves or taken out a fee loan, would get a refund which would exclude the vast majority of Scottish students, who will still be taking on debt during their degrees.
“In addition, we’d be worried if this was simply a way to try and attract more fee-paying students while doing little for the outcomes of Scottish students.”
Mahoney continued: “At UWS we are very keen to engage in thought leadership relating to a number of higher education topics and the concept of refunding student-paid fees should a student fail to complete the award they came to study, is merely one of them.”