University under pressure over graduation fees
A Scottish university is facing calls to abolish graduation fees.
The National Union of Students says the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) should scrap the charges because it has a relatively large number of students from disadvantaged areas.
The Paisley-based institution says it has set up a fund to help students who may find the cost a burden and is looking at future options.
A number of universities have recently abolished the fees completely.
This follows a campaign by the National Union of Students (NUS) which has said it can up to £225 to take part in ceremonies.
It wants to try to end graduation charges across Scotland and a number of universities, including Aberdeen, Strathclyde, Robert Gordon and Stirling, have stopped them.
A petition calling on UWS to do the same has attracted 2,500 signatures.
The NUS says it costs students at UWS at least £82 to graduate - they are expected to pay a £40 graduation fee while hiring a robe costs a further £42.
It is concerned that graduation charges may be a particular difficulty for students from disadvantaged areas - they may be less likely to be able to borrow the money from their families if they cannot meet the costs personally.
The Students' Association at UWS said it had given out more than £11,000 in emergency hardship payments this year yet the university was continuing to charge for graduation when some of its students are in a dire financial situation.
The University of the West of Scotland said it was "fully committed" to meaningful engagement on all matters that are important to its students.
It recently met students and representatives from the students' association to discuss graduation charges.
A spokesman said: "At the positive and productive meeting, it was agreed that the university would endeavour to identify strategies that would ultimately allow access to graduation for all students regardless of income.
"In the meantime, a special graduation hardship fund is being created to support eligible students, effective for this summer's graduation ceremonies."
He said the cost of graduating without attending the ceremony would cut immediately to £10 and the deadline for paying graduation fees extended from 7 May until 24 May.
He added: "We are fully committed to ongoing engagement on this issue and plan to meet with students and SAUWS again over the coming weeks to look at detailed options relating to future free graduation ceremonies.
"In the meantime, details of the criteria associated with the new graduation hardship fund will be announced to students soon."
'Free and accessible'
The President of NUS Scotland Liam McCabe said: "A student's graduation should be one of the most memorable days of their life as they celebrate their hard-earned achievements.
"However, NUS Scotland's FOI and our 'free to graduate' campaign has revealed many institutions are putting a price on success through disgraceful graduation fees, effectively taxing students by stealth.
"Not only do many institutions - particularly universities - demand payment to graduate in the first place, they also require their students to hire and wear expensive academic robes from third party providers. Stunningly, some institutions even get a kick back on these transactions, receiving commission from the involved companies.
"We would appeal to all institutions across the country to reflect on their graduation fee policies and the impact they have on their least affluent students. Institutions must ensure that, in future, their graduations are free and accessible to all those who have earned the right to celebrate their academic successes."