Universities make £50m from library book fines

BRITISH universities have raised nearly £50 million from fining students for overdue library books, figures have revealed.

Top of the pile was Leeds University, which has raised more than £1.8m in the past six years.

In second place was Manchester University, which collected almost £1.3m and in third was the University of Wolverhampton with £1.25m. At the bottom of the table was Imperial College London, which collected just £26,703 in fines.

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Most students are fined 10p for every day a book is overdue, but at Edinburgh Napier University daily fines can be as much as £1 per day.

“The charge on the invoice reflects the amount it would cost us to replace the item using our normal suppliers,” the university revealed in replying to an FOI request.

“Sometimes a student who has genuinely lost an item will buy it through Amazon at a reduced price and give us the book – we are very happy to accept that.

“At the end of the day our priority is to ensure that materials we have in stock for student use are available so when an item is not returned we start the invoice process with the aim of replacing the item.”

However, many are never returned at all as more than 300,000 books remain unaccounted for from universities across the country.

Leading the way at number one was Bucks New University with 30,540, closely followed by Oxford University with 20,923 and the University of Kent with 19,613.

The figures were revealed in Freedom of Information requests to all of Britain’s universities by the Press Association. It requested details of the amount of fines issued, the total received and the number of books unaccounted for from its libraries for the six academic years from 2004-05.

In total, 101 universities responded to the request but many were unable to provide details of the amounts they fined students for returning books late.

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Penalties at the universities vary. For persistent offending, students can have their library account suspended or lose access to their university’s IT system. Some may even be barred from graduating if they owe their university money.

As little as a £5 debt at Exeter University will prevent graduation, as will £20 at Lancaster University or £25 at the University of Glasgow. Other universities said they would instruct debt collection agencies if the library debts were part of other larger debts owed, such as fees.