Case reference number: CRE-E/28985
Complainant: National Union of Students
The OFT opened an investigation considering the terms and conditions and
practices used by some universities to prevent students from graduating
or enrolling onto the next academic year or using university facilities
if they owe monies to the university which relate to non-tuition fee
debts such as for accommodation or childcare, or to withhold services
the student may be said to be paying for if they engage in conduct
(unrelated to academic performance) of which the university disapproves.
The Enterprise Act 2002, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts
Regulations 1999 ('UTCCRs'), the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
('UCTA'), and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations
The OFT has now published a report setting out the findings from its
investigation and its views on the fairness and lawfulness of these
terms and practices.
- Download the report
We have concluded that use of and reliance upon contract terms to
withhold graduation or progression or otherwise exclude students from
tuition for non-payment of non-tuition fee debts, especially where
applied in a blanket fashion and regardless of circumstances, is open to
challenge as unfair under the UTCCRs and/or may be unreasonable under
the UCTA. We also consider that practices around the use of such terms
may constitute unfair commercial practices under the CPRs.
We also consider that withholding services that the student may be said
to be paying for, as a disciplinary measure, may be unfair if
appropriate standards of transparency and fairness are not met. However
we have not identified any widespread concerns that such standards are
not already in place. In January 2014 we published a summary note
clarifying our views on this issue.
The OFT expects all universities to refrain from using potentially
unfair and/or unreasonable terms and practices and recommends that
universities review their rules and regulations, other terms and
conditions, and practices in light of the OFT's views and make
amendments where necessary. We have written directly to all UK
universities and other Higher Education institutions to draw to their
attention the OFT's report and to encourage them to not to use terms
and practices that the OFT considers may be unfair.
The publication of the report marks the closure of the OFT's
Published 1 February 2014