Free to Graduate

1 out of 1000 signatures

Lead officer:            
Liam McCabe, President NUS Scotland 2018/20
Matt Crilly, President NUS Scotland 2020/22

In late 2018, NUS Scotland published research revealing the true cost of graduation to Scotland’s students. Data collected through Freedom of Information requests showed:

  • Students could be charged as much as £225 in graduation-related costs
  • Specific graduation fees were in place at 70% of universities and 16% of colleges
  • Before a student has even thought about gowns, photographs and other expensive additions, some need to spend £70 just to get a seat in the hall
  • Students who cannot afford their graduation and decide not to attend the ceremony, may be charged by their institutions to graduate ‘in absentia’
  • Some institutions also require students to purchase academic dress and robes from external companies, with some institutions receiving commission.

Newly elected president Liam McCabe set about working with member student officers to support a series of student-led campaigns at Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Robert Gordon, Napier and Stirling, to scrap graduation charges levied on students.

What we did

Working with member officers, the president pulled together a plan to shine the spotlight on the true costs of graduation for students in Scotland, writing to and meeting with MSPs to make the case for change and appearing in numerous media broadcasts explaining just what was going on at universities and colleges across Scotland.

Following the news of Strathclyde University abolishing graduation fees for students, NUS Scotland published an open letter to all college and university principles to ensure every student is ‘free to graduate’.

At Scotland conference in March 2019 the issue was put to a delegate vote, resulting in the call for an end to graduation fees at Scotland’s colleges and universities becoming policy, with NUS Scotland mandated to lobby for the establishment of graduation hardship funds to be made available.

What we achieved

Students united across Scotland in calling for an end to unfair graduation charges, with many institutions removing graduation charges for students completely. The majority of universities responded to NUS Scotland’s call for action, announcing the removal of graduation fees benefitting students today and tomorrow.

What we’re doing now / next?

While much has been achieved there is sadly still more to do. The recent coronavirus crisis has highlighted graduates being asked to pay to participate in virtual graduation ceremonies showing that the marketisation of education continues despite the successes of recent years.

If Scotland’s institutions are genuinely committed to widening access, and sincerely wish to ensure they are open to all, we invite them to prove it now by ensuring that graduation is free for all of Scotland’s students both on and offline. NUS Scotland, and students’ associations and unions across Scotland, will therefore continue to campaign for an end to graduation charges until we see them gone for good.


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