Outreach activity ramped up at dawn of £9,000 fees

Les Ebdon claims fee level has not put off poor students as spending to attract them climbs and admissions rise

July 17, 2014

Universities spent an extra £44 million on recruiting students from poor families in the first year of £9,000 tuition fees, a study says.

According to a joint report by the Office for Fair Access and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, higher education institutions spent £141 million on summer schools, campus visits and other outreach activities in 2012-13, up from £97 million in 2011-12.

Overall, the sector spent £743 million on its efforts to attract and retain students from disadvantaged groups last year, according to the report, Outcomes of Access Agreement, Widening Participation Strategic Statement and National Scholarship Programme Monitoring for 2012-13, published on 17 July.

Of this cash, half of which came from Hefce and half from tuition fees and other sources, £425 million was used to support current students via the provision of extra academic and pastoral care. In addition, £464 million was spent by institutions on financial support for students using money from tuition fees, of which £369 million was awarded in bursaries, scholarships and in-kind support and £93.2 million in fee waivers. That was £78 million higher than in 2011-12, although £50 million of this came from the National Scholarship Programme, which has now been axed for undergraduates.

Overall, some 401,500 students from lower-income and under-represented groups received a financial award in 2012-13, which represents about 40 per cent of all students paying £6,000 a year or more for their degree programme.

Undergraduates who were on full state maintenance grants received £1,268 from universities in 2012-13 on average, compared with £915 in 2011-12, while those on partial grants pocketed £731, up from £631.

The report also says that 72 per cent of institutions had met or were on course to meet access targets.

Offa director Les Ebdon said that fees of £9,000 had not deterred applicants from low-income families, with admissions rising in 2012-13.

“There is even starting to be some improvement at the most selective universities, where participation gaps are stubbornly wide,” he said.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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