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Students who fail their degrees could be offered a refund by University

A rebate system for fee-paying students who fail to complete their degrees is being looked at by the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). UWS is one of Scotland's largest modern universities. Its principal, Professor Craig Mahoney, believes that publicly-funded universities need to become more commercially sensitive and act more like private industry if they are to survive in the future.

UWS campus in Ayr. Photo: Alamy/The Telegraph UWS campus in Ayr. Photo: Alamy/The Telegraph
29-01-2015 by The Telegraph

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is looking at introducing a rebate system for fee-paying students. Under plans being considered by one of Scotland's largest modern universities, students who fail their degrees despite full engagement and participation, could have their fees refunded.

In the face of increasing competition from private providers, the UK's publicly-funded universities must embrace "radical change", according to UWS's principal, Professor Craig Mahoney.

Professsor Mahoney said: "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."

"One possibility we are considering is introducing a rebate system. If you are admitted to UWS on the basis we only admit students with the potential to succeed, and then you fail to complete your degree - having attended and participated in all the support and development opportunities we offer - we will refund the tuition fee you have personally paid or taken a loan for."

Professor Mahoney added: "This isn't all about monetisation of higher education - it's about ensuring the considerable investment of time and money students make in their education is an investment that delivers an acceptable return."

UWS campuses in Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton and Paisley, together serve about 15,000 students, including 1,100 international students.

Any refund plan would benefit non-EU international students and those from the rest of the UK, since Scottish and European Union students get free tuition under the current system.

"In the global economy, the environment changes quickly and the magnitude of that change can be staggering" said Professor Mahoney, adding: "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."