Russell Group universities continue major investment in bursaries and outreach

26 March 2009

In response to the publication of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) 2007-08 monitoring report, Director General of The Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

"Russell Group universities are determined to ensure that talented students from every background receive all the support – financial or otherwise – necessary to benefit from a course at one of our universities. This report is helpful in highlighting the extent of the major investment that English Russell Group universities continue to make in bursaries and outreach.

“In the last year alone Russell Group universities in England spent £45 million of their additional fee income on bursaries and outreach - a greater proportion than predicted. This represents an average of £2.8 million per institution with some of our universities spending as much as £6 million. Overall, this represents nearly £1 million more per institution than the sector average.

“Since the introduction of the fees regime Russell Group institutions have greatly increased the amount of financial support given to disadvantaged students through bursaries. In 2007-08, Russell Group universities increased the amount of additional fee income spent on bursaries to over £40 million.

“A student from a low income background attending a Russell Group university received, on average, guaranteed bursarial support of £1,790. This is nearly six times the minimum bursary of £305 required by OFFA. Almost a third of Russell Group university students received a bursary or scholarship.

“It is important to stress that bursaries are just one of many measures designed to overcome the barriers pupils from under-represented backgrounds face in reaching university. Our universities have also dramatically increased the amount of money committed to outreach and widening participation from additional fee income. This is in addition to the very large sums already committed to outreach from existing budgets.

“We agree with OFFA that diversity in bursary support from higher education institutions is an important and necessary aspect of student support arrangements in England and that a new 'national bursary scheme' is not required. As OFFA states, we already have a ‘national bursary scheme’ in the form of a guaranteed level of support for disadvantaged students through government grants, subsidised loans and no upfront fees. An additional national bursary system would create many losers and few winners as there would be relatively small increases to a standard bursary but thousands of high-achieving, low income students would lose out on substantial support currently available.”
Notes to editors

  1. OFFA annual monitoring report for 2007/08 shows that Russell Group universities spent 26.6 % of additional fee income on bursaries and outreach compared to a 25.5% predicted spend.
    122 English higher education institutions spent a total of £219 million on bursaries and outreach in 2007-08 compared to £45 million by 16 English Russell Group institutions. This represents approximately £1 million more per institution on average.
  2. In 2007/08 Russell Group universities spent over £5 million of additional fee income on outreach.
  3. In the OFFA 2007-08 Monitoring Report, Director of OFFA, Sir Martin Harris, stated: "Some feel that this variance is unfair and have called for a national bursary scheme to be introduced. However, our view is that national financial support for lower income students already exists in the form of Government grants and loans, and the minimum bursary. We believe it is absolutely right that over and above the threshold institutions should be free to make their own decisions regarding the financial support they offer to lower income students and others."

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