Close-up on bursaries

March 20, 2014

Amanda Chetwynd and Peter Diggle (“Bursaries’ individual impact”, Letters, 13 March) are mistaken: the Office for Fair Access’ powerful new analysis in our interim report on the effect of bursaries on retention is based on the continuation rates of individuals.

Offa had access to student data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which allowed us to track individuals from the year of entry to the following year, as well as the level of household residual income declared to the Student Loans Company. Combining these data sources along with a thorough analysis of the bursary schemes set out in access agreements, we were able to impute an individual-level bursary award. Using these data, and accounting for a number of factors that affect a student’s likelihood of continuing with their studies, we did not find any positive effect of either possession of a bursary or bursary level on the likely retention of students.

Following a request from Offa, Hesa’s 2013‑14 student record will give us – and the wider research community – access to the individual amounts received, providing even richer data. This will provide a more complete picture of the possible effect of bursaries on retention under the new system of fees, and we will complete further analysis in due course.

Les Ebdon
Director of Fair Access to Higher Education

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