Figures of speech

June 7, 2002

Many statistics quoted by senior public figures on the proportion of students receiving local education authority support for tuition fees are based on estimates rather than on actual figures. We believe the proportion of students is much smaller than the 50 per cent claimed for 2001-02.

We conducted research using the Department for Education and Skills statistical first-release for April 2002 that sets out the distribution of fee support for 2000-01. But these figures are based on students assessed by their LEA and do not include those who did not apply for assessment and paid tuition fees in full. To determine the size of this "hidden" contingent, we compared the number of students in DFES figures with Higher Education Statistics Agency figures on the number of full-time home undergraduates for 2000-01. This revealed a shortfall of 117,805.

Revising the total number of students, we found that 35 per cent did not pay tuition fees in 2000-01, 49 per cent paid in full and therefore 65 per cent made a contribution. Figures for 2001-02 from the Student Loans Company show that only 35 per cent were assessed for full LEA support and 48 per cent were assessed for zero support. This is a decrease in the proportion who obtained full support in 2001-02. Again, these figures exclude students who did not apply to be assessed.

The differences between these two sets of figures and the differences between our findings and the statistics quoted publicly raise serious questions.

Anna Edwards
Education officer
General Council of the Bar

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