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Strathclyde President: How We Won #FreetoGraduate

Wednesday 22-05-2019 - 16:03

 

 

By Matt Crilly, President of Strathclyde Students' Union

I became President of Strathclyde Student Union in June 2018, graduation month on my campus. Students at Strathclyde were charged £35 to attend their graduation, or £20 to graduate ‘in absentia’. Upon taking office, I quickly heard from students who were struggling to meet the cost of graduation and in my role had the responsibility of signing off on applications to our union’s graduation hardship fund. As well as covering the cost of robes, we paid the students’ graduation fees.

Strathclyde Students' Union President Matt Crilly celebrating the success of their campaign to abolish graduation fees
Looking across the sector, I was aware of other universities who didn’t charge their students to graduate. Most notably, Glasgow uni had removed their grad fees. If Glasgow could do it, couldn’t we?


With our institution having a large widening access student population and a ‘socially progressive’ ethos, we made the case for Strathclyde to abolish their graduation fees. First, we conducted research, benchmarked Strathclyde against the sector and submitted our proposals to the Student Experience Committee we share with the university. 

From the beginning, the university saw merit in our ask and quickly offered to lower the fees. It was at this moment we decided, as a democratic organisation, that we should consult our members on whether to accept an offer of reduced fees or continue lobbying for complete abolition. Over 1,200 students responded to our online polling and they clearly indicated they wished for us to reject the offer and keep pushing.


With a clear show of support from the student body, alongside a funky campaign video, Strathclyde abolished all of its graduation fees. In the end, the university bought into our vision and faced with large bureaucratic and technical challenges, the staff were amazing in making it a reality.


Abolishing graduation fees means a lot to many students. I can’t forget the day we published the news, I received a message from a student who said:“It’s a matter of pride for me, to be the first person in my family to graduate from university. I wouldn’t have went to graduation if I had to pay, as that £35 would have went towards our weekly shop.”

At the end of the day, everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, deserves to attend their graduation. 

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