A Freedom of Information request has revealed that library fees for overdue books reached £12, 442.75 during the 2016/17 academic year. The request was made on 31 October 2017 and fulfilled in November 2017.
Jack Forks, who made the request, stated that he needed the information for a research project on UK wide university library fines. The above total excludes the costs of replacing missing books.
Sussex University told The Badger that “Money raised from this process goes towards the running of the Library service for all users.”. They also stated that “All borrowed items are automatically renewed unless another borrower has recalled them.” which minimises late fees. Under current library rules items can be recalled “during term time and over the vacation periods.” and The Library sends emails to all users summarising their loans and fines. The University encourages students to check their emails to avoid fees.
Lulah Strathearn Brady, Undergraduate Education Officer, told The Badger “Fines for missing books should be used only as a last resort. The University has a responsibility to ensure that they fully fund the library out of the extortionate tuition fees students already pay, and that students don’t fund services via fines that are the University’s responsibility.”
Postgraduate Education Officer, Sarah McIntosh, also added that “As an Education Officer and as the founder of the Degrees Not Fees campaign, which looks at the financial burdens on students, I am of course opposed to any hidden study costs that could put a financial strain on students.
“However, I also acknowledge the efforts to which the library has gone to in order to minimise late fees with the automatic renewals system and also the frustration felt by many students when they have gone to the library and a needed resource has not been available.”
Sussex University was unable to fulfil a different FOI request made by a Mr Onikosi on the grounds that it would be too time consuming and costly (as is permitted under section 12 of the FOI act (2000)).
The wide-ranging FOI requested information on a number of issues surrounding race and ethnicity including admission numbers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic EU and home students, the number of students that have been withdrawn due to visa issues and the number of BAME staff. The FOI also requested data on the number of students withdrawn under Prevent legislation.
The University’s response states that “whilst the University may hold this information, the cost of resources required to retrieve and prepare the information would exceed the appropriate limit under section 12 of the Act.
“The limit we are required to commit is £450, which is equivalent to 18 hours of staff time charged at £25 per hour.”. The University stated that rephrasing of the request may make it more feasible under the act.