It is, quite simply, unacceptable to impose a fine on you if it was not stated (in some way) beforehand that they would. Of course, it probably is written down somewhere - we were all given the tome that is "Examination Regulations" at the start of first year - it runs to over 1000 pages (yes, one thousand), and is a fantastic doorstop.
Why do they need 1000 pages for some exam regulations? Is it to ensure no one reads it so that they can pretty much do what they want and people will be clueless as to whether they're supposed to do it? Or is the book the size of a match box?
I think people just don't realise how important the first year is for setting you up for the next two. One solution could be to make the first year count for 10% or something to encourage these people to make the effort, but if they don't want to succeed that's their problem and making the first year count towards the final grade might harm genuine students who do better in the latter two years. At least with kicking them off they could start again somewhere else the following year. The extra debt would teach them a good life lesson.
Oh and thanks for the rep, it gave me a new gem. ^_^
You're not just paying for a lecturers wage though - what about the chairs you're sat on, the clean (we hope lol) toilets you use, the paths you walk on, the books you take out of the library, the computers you use in the computer rooms, the subsidised sandwich you eat in the canteen, the subsidised beer you drink in the bar ... Just because you don't physically 'see' where your money goes doesn't mean that it's not being spent. A uni does not make much profit (if any) from your average undergrad, it's postgrads and research that bring in the real cash.
Think of it like a restaurant - you don't just pay for the food you get on your plate, but the fact that someone has cooked it, stored it, served it to you in a clean, furnished restaurant. I'm not saying that unis don't make money, but it's really not from teaching undergrads. That's why most unis run as both charities and businesses - the charity teaches you, the business makes some money from running conferences, weddings, hiring out the uni for filming etc (that's why my uni did).
And whoever neg repped me for my above comment - how mature!
Deparments get funded according to both how many students they have and the level of prestige/funding that that department brings to the university. I don't know what uni you're at, but I'd hazard a guess that 'science' brings more money to the uni than 'history' - just look at the difference in postgrad funding from the research councils for these subjects. In London (sorry, I don't know about other areas) the stipend for an arts PhD student is about twelve thousand pounds pa. I know science PhDs who are on nearly double that. I'd imagine that that's also reflected in the amount of money that the university gets from the research councils for those students - less for arts, more for sciences. I'm not devaluing arts subjects (I was an arts/social sciences student myself) but the fact remains that in every sense, the arts are funded far less than the sciences. Sciences demand more facilites and contact time, and they also bring more money into universities - it seems logical that science students benefit more from this. To reiterate a point I've made before, as an undergraduate you are relatively unimportant to your university - since high level scientific research demands certain facilites science undergrads tend to benefit from the money coming into the uni by getting more access to these better facilites. It's not done for the benefit of undergrads, the fact that undergrads have this access is a kind of 'byproduct' IYSWIM. Arts generally don't need specific facilites, so arts students don't benefit in the same way. University libraries are generally chronically underfunded - the most money in the past few years has gone into developing technology on campus, better computing facilites etc.
Also, when funding is scarce, the first thing that gets cut is the budget for books and journals - what you're seeing is a result of a) expansion of the university sector meaning more students competing for scarce resources and b) the result of a chronic lack of funding, which kind of proves the point that universites aren't sitting on huge piles of cash. Also, given that until fairly recently the university sector was run almost wholly as charitable sector, you're also seeing the results of a fair bit of mismanagement and a lack of real business acumen. This has changed a lot recently - if you want to work for a charity you're likely to need a business degree, but it's going to be a few years before most universites become financially healthy. Science and technlogy attract money, so it makes sense for universities to invest more heavily in these areas. The arts are (at the moment) really loosing out, hopefully this won't go on for too long ...