A Scottish university principal who hopes to waive students’ fees if they fail to graduate has urged other universities to adopt the same policy.
The radical proposals put forward by Professor Craig Mahoney, principal of the University of West of Scotland, would see international students and students from the rest of the UK (RUK) receive a refund if they failed to complete their degree. The scheme would not apply to Scottish students as their fees are covered by the Scottish government.
Professor Mahoney said: “In the global economy, the environment changes quickly and the magnitude of that change can be staggering. We cannot sit in our ivory towers, observing and imagining that we will be unaffected by the changes taking place around us.
“If you keep doing the things you’ve always done, you keep getting what you’ve always got and in the future that might not be enough.”
Professor Mahoney urged other universities to join him in adopting a more flexible approach to students’ needs.
He added: “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.”
Robert Foster, NUS Scotland vice-president, expressed concerns that this was a ploy to attract more fee-paying students but welcomed a debate on the matter.
He said: “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.”
The University declined to comment.