University considers refund plans
Students who fail their degrees could have their fees refunded under plans being considered by one of Scotland's largest modern universities.
The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is looking at introducing a rebate system for fee-paying students who fail to complete their degrees despite full engagement and participation.
UWS principal Professor Craig Mahoney said the UK's publicly-funded universities must embrace "radical change" in the face of increasing competition from private providers.
He 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."
He 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 has campuses in Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton and Paisley, which together serve about 15,000 students, including 1,100 international students.
Scottish and European Union (EU) students get free tuition under the current system but non-EU international students and those from the rest of the UK could benefit from any refund plan.
Prof Mahoney added: "In the global economy, the environment changes quickly and the magnitude of that change can be staggering.
"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."