NSP overhauled to help neediest

Oft-criticised scholarship scheme’s riches will now follow the poor, BIS states. Jack Grove reports

January 17, 2013

Universities admitting high numbers of low-income students will receive more resources in a shake-up of the National Scholarship Programme.

The programme, which will be worth £150 million by 2014-15, was announced by the coalition government shortly before the vote in December 2010 to treble maximum tuition fees to £9,000 a year. It offers students from families earning £25,000 a year or less the chance to receive at least £3,000 in financial support in their first year.

But the scheme has been roundly criticised by academics, students’ unions and higher education experts, who have argued that it was hastily conceived and is difficult to access.

There are also criticisms that the distribution of NSP funds, which is based on an institution’s size, is unfair because pre-1992 universities with relatively few poor students often receive more money than post-1992 institutions with higher intakes from deprived backgrounds. For instance, the University of Cambridge received £411,000 this academic year from the NSP - more than the University of Bradford (£345,000) or the University of Bolton (£3,000).

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now announced that the allocation method will change in 2014-15 in light of a Higher Education Funding Council for England review.

The revised allocation method will ensure that “the money follows the student and goes where it is most needed”, a BIS spokesman said.

“The NSP was introduced in a rush and we did not have much time to implement it,” David Willetts, the universities and science minister, told Times Higher Education.

“We’ve taken time to step back and make improvements.”

He said that part-time students would now be eligible for the NSP, and institutions could use philanthropic donations to match-fund state contributions to the scheme. “That is great for potential donors and good for institutions, too,” Mr Willetts said.

A passage on the changes was contained in guidance published by the Office for Fair Access on 17 January, titled How to Produce an Access Agreement for 2014-15.

It explains how universities can meet their obligations to improve access to higher education for socially disadvantaged groups.

The guidance outlines how universities’ outreach activities should target children as young as seven, while also seeking to identify potential mature students. “While work with teenagers is very useful and should continue, we are keen to see more long-term schemes that start at a younger age and persist through…school,” said Offa’s director, Les Ebdon.

He also encouraged institutions to collaborate on outreach and to evaluate more closely which schemes are most effective.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Reflection of man in cracked mirror

To defend the values of reason from political attack we need to be more discriminating about the claims made in its name, says John Hendry

But the highest value UK spin-off companies mainly come from research-intensive universities, latest figures show