From September, new students will have to pay a charge to the UEA Medical Centre (UMS) for a medical note.
Students who need a medical certificate to apply for extenuating circumstances or an extension will be charged the standard NHS levy of £35. There will continue to be no charge for exam certificates.
The university currently pays a subsidy to the UMS so students are not charged for a UEA Medical Certificate.
For the next academic year the charge will apply to first year students. From September 2018 only first and second year students will have to pay and from September 2019 it will apply to first, second and third years.
The charge is expected to be staggered so by September 2020 all students will have to pay.
Jon Sharp, Director of Student Services, said: “The cost of certificates issued for missed exams or medically-related interruptions to study will continue to be covered by the university for all students registered with the University Medical Centre.
”The revised charging system will be introduced for new students registering with the Medical Centre from the start of the 2017-18 academic year and will apply only to medical certificates provided in support of extension requests where self-certification does not apply.
“We’re currently working with the students’ union on how the new approach will be implemented, and will ensure that any student in financial difficulties is not dissuaded from seeking appropriate certification.
“UEA will continue to provide more funding than many other universities. Many don’t have an on-campus Medical Centre and, of those that do, many apply standard NHS fees.
“Ending the subsidy will deliver a saving to the university that can be applied for the benefit of all students.”
SU Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer India Edwards criticised the decision.
She said: “The university has consistently promised that the student experience won’t suffer as a result of expansion – but forcing students to pay £35 a time for medical certs as a result of rise in demand is the precise opposite. Worse still there’s no guarantee the savings will be spent on the student experience.
“We all know why demand is going up- student number growth, the shift from exams to coursework and LTS’ (Learning Teaching Services) requirements on extenuating circumstances- but it’s students’ pockets that are being picked to cope, with the poorest students prevented from being able to prove extenuating circumstances or sickness at work. Reducing the subsidy to cope would be bad enough, but taking it away altogether is astonishing.”
Dr Sharp added: “The current system could be regarded as unfair since students (especially mature students) who do not register with the University Medical Centre cannot access this subsidy.
“We have seen an exponential increase in students seeking medical certificates and UMS has noted that many do not present with any diagnosable symptoms. By bringing our practice into line with other universities and applying a charge for certification, it is hoped that this will reduce the number of unnecessary consultations with medical staff.”
Miss Edwards said the withdrawal of the subsidy for the Medical Certificate was not discussed with students.
She said: “If the Vice-Chancellor is serious about a partnership with students we’ll need deeds not words- consulting with students over increases like this, and ensuring that all charges for students throughout campus are reviewed openly in light of growing pressures on students’ finances.”