Bursaries’ individual impact

March 13, 2014

You report the finding from the Office for Fair Access that neither the size nor the availability of a bursary had a discernible effect on whether a student from a poor background would finish a course or not (“Bursaries fail to help poor students stay the course”, News, 6 March).

However, Offa’s analysis is based on completion rates at institutional level. Epidemiologists have long known that the absence of an effect at group level (university here) need not imply absence of that effect at the individual level (the student) – the so-called ecological fallacy. The data available to Offa did not permit an individual-level analysis.

Using individual-level data from our own institution we have shown that, after accounting for other factors that affect a student’s likelihood to complete their studies (A‑level tariff and socio-economic background), not only does the award of a bursary increase the likelihood of completion, but it does so to an extent that almost eliminates the effect of socio-economic background.

Bursaries are awarded to students, not to universities. A full understanding of their effects requires the analysis of data on individual students.

Amanda Chetwynd
Peter J. Diggle
Lancaster University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Viewed

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi