'Appalling': Students in Scotland penalised for withdrawing early from college courses
Think before you decide to leave your course. Source: Shutterstock

It’s not an easy task deciding which college course, which will determine your career and henceforth your life, to take when you’re 18 years old. You would think colleges would understand this predicament and give you all the guide to help you along with it.

That’s not the case with some Scottish colleges. According to The Heraldnew first-year students at certain institutions are being fined for leaving their courses after just a few weeks.

Six colleges were found to charge students for leaving their course under certain circumstances:  City of Glasgow, West College Scotland, North East Scotland and Forth Valley, according to a survey by the Times Educational Supplement Scotland.

Students are reportedly charged fees of between GBP35 and GBP50 a week for dropping out, while those who withdraw within the first two weeks had to pay a GBP25 administration fee.

NUS Scotland president Luke Humberstone described the situation as “appalling”.

“When a student is at risk of dropping out the number one priority for the college should always be getting the student the support that they need to remain and succeed in education.”

“There are countless reasons why a student might leave education including if they are struggling with academic, financial or welfare problems,” Humberstone said.

“While this is not necessarily the college’s fault there is a responsibility to reach out and support students at risk of leaving rather than looking to recoup finances.”

Colleges in Scotland are distinct from universities. Colleges Scotland, the body representing the sector in Scotland, said the recent changes in admission policies at universities could be one of the reasons why students are leaving their college courses. Some students are being poached by universities, which are widening access to their institutions by targeting those from poorer backgrounds, who traditionally attended colleges instead of universities.

While the retention and success of students were of “paramount” importance, a spokeswoman for Colleges Scotland said: “The progress of students is monitored and both proactive and reactive support structures provide extensive help to ensure that students facing challenges can address these and remain on their course.”

“However, anecdotal evidence from our members would suggest an increasing number of students beginning higher national courses have subsequently left college to take up a late offer to go to university.”

These withdrawals can be costly for Scottish colleges. The government does not pay for tuition until the first week of December – this means any the colleges are the ones footing the bill for students who register for their courses in August but leave before then.

According to Colleges Scotland, one college had lost more than GBP200,000 over the past three years in anticipated funding.

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