Magazine article Public Finance

Bursaries 'Not Doing Enough to Widen Access to Top Universities'

Magazine article Public Finance

Bursaries 'Not Doing Enough to Widen Access to Top Universities'

Article excerpt

Means-tested grants are failing to encourage students from poor backgrounds to go to the UK's top universities, prompting calls for them to be replaced if tuition fees rise.

A report published on September 23 by the Office for Fair Access found that the offer of higher bursaries for poorer students to go to the most selective universities had not made them more likely to apply. Since the introduction of bursaries in 2006, no more disadvantaged young people are entering Russell group universities than in the mid-1990s.

The report, Have bursaries influenced choices between universities?, found that while the grants had been a 'huge success' in widening access to universities overall, their size had no effect. Generally, the most generous ones are offered by the top institutions.

Offa director Sir Martin Harris told Public Finance that it was 'crystal clear' that, out of the factors influencing university choice, 'it is not a bit more money at 18'.

He called on the most selective universities to immediately divert money used for higher bursaries to outreach projects in schools or colleges, which would have far more impact.

The Offa findings came ahead of Lord Browne's review of university funding, due to be published next month. …

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