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Friday, February 11, 2011

More help for poorer students

The Coalition Government have moved quickly to ensure that Universities who are seeking to charge the full £9,000 fees for students will have to put in real help for those from poorer families wishing to study at their institutions.

According to the Independent universities in England that want to charge more than £6,000 in fees from next year will have to fund a national scholarship programme in return:

The scheme will be worth £150m annually by 2014-15, when 48,000 students from families with an income of less than £25,000 a year will be helped. At present, about one-third of the 340,000 undergraduates are in this income group but are less likely to go to the elite universities than those from better-off households.

The Government will contribute £3,000 towards their annual fees and the university a further £3,000 in matching funding, leaving the student to repay the remaining amount of up to £3,000 after their income from working reached £21,000 a year. It could mean poor students paying less than the current £3,290 a year flat-rate fee.

The Government also want to insist that Universities will have to reach a deal with the Office of Fair Access to greatly improve their performance in attracting a wider mix of students, but will be free to decide how they achieve that.

None of this compensates for the decision to increase the tuition fee level so dramatically of course but if it works it should alleviate some of the pain on the pay-back period and may even encourage those from poorer families to go to college after all.
Compulsory bursaries?
The English Universities which are considering such high fees of up to £9k already have such scholarships, usually funded by charitable trusts. In the case of Oxford, multi-departmental funds such as the Clarendon, Dorothy Hodge, Rhodes and Santander funds, and it's topped up with tax free arrangements for sponsorship of particular research projects from industry in specific disciplines, dedicated to 'poor but outstanding' candidates. Bizarrely, this latest wheeze may end up substituting such funding with taxpayers cash. It's a typical 'after-thought' policy which suggests the coalition government in London are making things up as they go along.
... so if universities seek to charge just less than the full £9,000 fees ...
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