Nine students owe more than £6,000 in unpaid library charges to Durham University as the new academic year begins.

The figures, obtained by The Northern Echo through a Freedom of Information request, reveal the nine students have racked up £6,110 in charges for lost books and fines for late returns.

The worst offending student faces a huge £890 bill for lost books, with the charges being hiked just last month.

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Durham University said it only charges a maximum of £20 per lost book, meaning the student may have failed to return as many as 44 titles.

Another student has £840 in charges against their name, while all nine owe more than £500.

A university spokesperson said: “We only charge fines for the late returns of library items where there is an active request from another borrower for that item, to ensure students who have requested books can access them.

“We offer free postal returns from the UK to support students returning items, so even if they are not on campus, they can return items at no cost to themselves via the post.

“Whether for late return or lost items, the maximum fine is £20 per book, considerably below the replacement cost.

“If any student believes they have good reason not to pay a library charge, for example medical reasons or extenuating personal circumstances, they can contact us to discuss this.”

The Echo submitted requests about library fines to all five North East universities ahead of a new wave of freshers starting courses this month.

It comes after Labour leader Keir Starmer said in August his dream of attending university would be stopped “cold in its tracks” today due to the cost.

Students now face £9,250 a year fees for their courses, plus accommodation and living costs.

Durham and Newcastle are the only universities still fining students at their libraries, although the biggest fine on Tyneside was just £60.

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Northumbria said it stopped issuing fines in 2020 and waived all historic charges while Teesside made the same decision last year “as part of [its] cost of living support to students”.

The University of Sunderland now only charges penalties for non-returned laptops, as of December 2022.

Durham University added: “We have introduced a range of measures to support students with the cost of living, including increasing the Durham Grant Scheme by 10 per cent last year supporting students from low-income backgrounds, more than doubling our Student Hardship Fund, and introducing free cereal and hot drinks for students who miss breakfast.”