Bursaries can play an important part in encouraging participation but, used effectively, they can also have other wider-ranging benefits by helping to drive attainment and encourage retention among non-traditional students.
Effective bursary schemes help address the concerns of some students who feel they may not be able to finance their years of study. There should be no reason for financial worries to present a barrier to studying at one of the country’s best universities.
The very direct financial impact that bursaries can have can be clearly demonstrated. Emma Reay, senior student recruitment manager at the University of Newcastle, explains how their bursaries support a range of students. In one case a young woman who had been in care received a bursary which gave her significant practical help during the challenging transition to university.
Receiving a bursary meant she would not need to work and could focus on her maths degree. It also had the advantage of giving her the financial security to carry on renting her own flat at home, giving her a base during vacation as she had no immediate family to stay with.
Newcastle University’s substantial range of scholarships will benefit approximately 30% of new undergraduate students starting their degree in 2015.
University of Birmingham
Gail Rothnie, head of outreach at the University of Birmingham, describes the bursaries offered by the university as a series of overlapping initiatives, with those in the greatest need receiving the greatest financial assistance.
Some bursaries are also tied to attainment, encouraging a high level of academic work.
The university also offers a Gateway Bursaryfor internships or other activities to support employment, which students on low incomes might otherwise not be able to access due to travel costs and lost pay, as they may have been planning to work during the holidays.
This bursary supports students from priority groups to take up opportunities that will help improve their personal and professional development. Support is available up to a value of £2,000.
“Bursaries are about access and encouraging non-traditional students to reach their full potential,” says Gail. “They are also about helping them access experience which will make a huge difference when they look for work.”
University of Nottingham
Dr Penelope Griffin, head of widening participation at the University of Nottingham, says: “Bursaries have an important role in encouraging students to consider Nottingham – particularly those who live too far away to participate in our outreach – and in giving them more time to study while here.”
Research undertaken at Nottingham shows that bursaries attract low-income students to the university, and that they ease the financial concerns of undergraduates during study. Importantly, bursaries reduce the need to do paid work.
At Nottingham, at least a third of students are eligible for the University Core Bursary, which offers up to £3,000 for each year of undergraduate study. This is a means tested bursary based on the student’s household income.
University of Oxford
Financial support for undergraduate students at Oxford is a feature of the work of the university and its colleges. In addition to bursaries and tuition fee reductions, the collegiate University has always offered additional support to students through a number of additional financial assistance schemes, including supplementary financial provision offered by colleges.
The collegiate University continues to devote substantial resources to providing generous maintenance bursaries up to an estimated £7.2 million in 2015-16, and to maintaining tuition fee reductions worth £3.6 million.
Due to the high level of financial support, the University estimates students from households with incomes of £25,000 or less will be able to reduce the amount of government maintenance loan they take out by at least £2,000, based on the current lower range estimate of Oxford living costs over nine months.