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Accounts office comes under fire

Twenty students had their access to student services and teaching facilities withdrawn on 28 November having not paid an adequate portion of their fees, despite the university issuing warnings regarding payments.

“Like other universities, at Sussex we have a system for collecting debts from those who do not pay by the deadlines that are set,” said a statement from the university.

“If a student continues not to pay the money that they owe the university, we have the right to withhold or withdraw registration and subsequently to withdraw the student from their degree programme.”

The press office has confirmed that the Student Accounts department intends to “offer financial advice and guidance, as our goal is to ensure that students meet the payments that are due and continue with their studies.”

However, some students feel that the service they have received does not reflect this goal.

A postgraduate student, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “They were only open to be seen in person from 10am until 1pm each day, and my seminars only allowed for me to visit one day a week. I queued for an hour, only to be told that information I had previously received was in fact untrue.

“I received a career development loan, which left a deficit on my account. I knew I owed the university money, but was told that as my loan covered well over the first term’s fees, I wouldn’t need to pay until January – but they asked me for £270 on the spot.”

The student accepted that the payment was compulsory, but was unhappy with the conditions under which the request was made.

“It’s demeaning to admit in a small, cramped office with absolutely no privacy that you can’t afford something.

“I have no maintenance loan and struggle financially, only working eight hours per week. No one needs to know that but me.”

Students were also stopped from voting in Union elections, despite still being allowed to attend University.

“I could still attend lectures and seminars, and use university facilities, so I was still affected by Union decisions. But I was unable to vote, which I think was unfair and a breach of my rights as a student.”

The accounts department made it clear that their aims are to support students. They said: “We expect that – as is the case every year – a number of these 20 students will now make the necessary payments and resume their studies”.

If students are having problems with this issue they can visit the Advice and Representation Centre in Falmer House – advice@ussu.sussex.ac.uk

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