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Financial Issues: Importance of clear communications - PI061607

University of York

A PhD student at the University of York complained to us about the University’s decision to charge him a continuation fee for the writing up period of his PhD.

The student had been awarded a 3.5 year studentship funded by the relevant Research Councils. He was informed by the University that this would cover "full UK fees" and provide an annual stipend in financial support.

At the start of his fourth year the University invoiced the student for a continuation fee. The student stated that this was unexpected as he had understood from his offer letter that his studentship covered his fees.

We reviewed the offer letter and the information it directed the student to on the University website. We did not consider that the information made it clear that the student would be liable for fees at the end of the standard three year registration period for a PhD.

We found the complaint Justified. We recommended a refund of the fee and an additional payment for distress and inconvenience. We also recommended that the University review and amend the information provided to students about their liability for a continuation fee where the studentship they receive is longer than the standard length of PhD registration.