University spending on school outreach has almost doubled since £9,000 fees were introduced, says a report detailing a “record-breaking year” for the recruitment of disadvantaged students.
A total of £122.2 million was spent on outreach work with schools and young people by institutions in 2013-14 compared with just £67.2 million in 2011-12, according to the Office for Fair Access’ Outcomes of Access Agreement Monitoring for 2013-14 report published on 4 June.
A further £34.4 million was spent by institutions on outreach work with communities and adults last year, slightly more than the £29.9 million spent in 2011-12, the report adds. In addition, £35.6 million was invested in collaborative outreach work funded by several institutions last year, up from £18.5 million in 2012-13.
Overall, £802.6 million was spent by institutions on widening participation activities in 2013-14, including £434.2 million for extra academic and pastoral help for current students.
The extra spending on outreach came in a “record-breaking year” for improved widening participation, said Les Ebdon, Offa’s director.
Ninety per cent of targets set by institutions in relation to student intake – broadening the pool of applicants and reducing dropout rates – were either met or on course to be met last year, up from 83 per cent in 2012-13, the report states.
One in three targets or milestones had been achieved three years ahead of institutions’ deadlines, it adds.
The statistics indicated “a national success story of which the whole of English higher education should be proud”, said Professor Ebdon.
According to the report, 358,000 students received some type of financial support in 2013-14 via access agreements – 43,500 fewer than in 2012‑13. However, students in receipt of full state support received almost £400 more on average that year – an average of £1,638 – as financial support was “targeted at those most in need”, the report says.
Overall, institutions spent £435.7 million on financial support for students last year using part of the £2.2 billion generated in higher fee income from fees above £6,000. However, that amount is predicted to decline slightly after 2015-16 as universities devote a larger portion of higher fee income to outreach and other activities, the report states.