National bursary scheme needed to stop student support lottery, says UCU

5 August 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU today said a national bursary scheme was required to ensure that all students can access funds they are entitled to.

Responding to a report from the university access watchdog, OFFA, the union said it was ludicrous that the amount of financial aid students currently receive is random and that universities with a poor track record of widening participation could spend less on student support.
 
A university that has a lot of students from low-income backgrounds is likely to only be able to give those students small bursaries because of the pressure on its total pot of money. However, a university with few students from low-income backgrounds will be able to offer larger bursaries to those students and to support students from wealthier backgrounds.
 
The money available in bursaries to individual students at any institution can vary year-on-year depending on the number of students from different social backgrounds.
 
The union said its case was strengthened by OFFA's own research which shows that only two-fifths of students looked for information on bursaries before applying to university. The watchdog's findings also revealed that one in 10 higher education advisors was not aware of bursaries and many of those who had heard of them had 'significant gaps in their knowledge'.
 
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'How much financial support universities offer students is a complete lottery. It is ludicrous that students' financial aid is decided in such a random and unfair way.
 
'Universities doing the most to attract students from the poorest backgrounds are unable to offer those students the vital funds they need to survive at university. A national scheme would be much easier to navigate and would ensure that those tasked with offering advice to students can point them towards much-needed funds.'

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