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UCU calls on universities to fund national bursary scheme for disadvantaged students

17 July 2014

National bursary scheme would simplify 'labyrinth' poorest students currently have to navigate • Further education colleges put universities to shame as they spend 50% more on outreach work than universities

Commenting on a report assessing a new drive to get disadvantaged students into higher education, UCU said today that while universities had taken positive steps to encourage greater participation amongst those from poor backgrounds, there was still more to do.
The report, from OFFA and HEFCE, examines the impact of student 'access agreements' - contracts brought in for universities charging tuition fees of more than £6,000 a year from September 2012.
The report found the average higher education institution spent around a quarter (27.5%) of income raised through higher tuition fees on initiatives to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds enter higher education. Further education colleges emerged as the forerunners in widening participation though, committing an average two-fifths (39.9%) of their new fee income on disadvantaged students.
UCU is calling for a national bursary system that would be offered to all students at every college or university if their household income is below a set threshold.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "It's good to see that overall, in the first year of higher fees, our universities and colleges recognised their responsibility to disadvantaged students and committed some of their new income to opening their doors to more of them.
'However, further education colleges are putting their university rivals to shame, by spending more of their new fee income in this area.
'Part of the problem for potential students from low-income backgrounds is that every institution offers different financial support packages so it is a labyrinth to navigate. UCU would like to see a national bursary system where students receive the same amount of financial support regardless of which college or university they attend.'
Last updated: 10 December 2015