Simplify scholarships system 1

October 31, 2003

In the ongoing debate about top-up fees, one misguided aspect of the government's plans is in danger of being overlooked.

Research and practical experience show that students from families with no history of participation in higher education are deterred by competition for places and the complexity of the system. Plans to compel each university to offer scholarships to non-traditional students from their new tuition fee income will inevitably create a miasma of schemes, each with its own eligibility criteria and applications process. How can a prospective student reasonably be expected to make informed decisions in this cacophony of competing offers?

The government must rethink this plan or risk the sharp elbows of the middle classes mopping up the scholarships. If new money is to be directed at first-generation students, let's see a system that is universal, simple and non-competitive.

Neil Harrison
Head, Student Advice and Welfare Services
University of the West of England

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