Leading UK universities actively working to further widen participation

09 March 2007

Dr Wendy Piatt, the Director General of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading twenty research universities, says their concerted efforts to improve and expand widening participation activities clearly demonstrates an absolute commitment to giving non-traditional students an opportunity to benefit from the very best Higher Education.

Dr Piatt highlighted the success of the first year of the new bursary scheme in helping poorer students – and added that the bursaries are just one of many key measures being taken to overcome the barriers poorer students face in getting to university.

"The funding devoted by Russell Group universities to improving participation by students from non traditional backgrounds has grown significantly since the introduction of variable fees," said Dr Piatt.

"Moreover the value of bursaries and scholarships that Russell Group universities in England will be an average per institution of over £5 million per year by 2010-2011, steadily increasing each year until then.

"Our institutions are currently offering roughly seven times more funding to students from the poorest backgrounds than is required by The Office for Fair Access, and this figure does not even include the many other initiatives put in place to widen participation. But there can be no room for complacency over such a vitally important issue."

Malcolm Grant, Chairman of the Russell Group and Provost of UCL added: “This has been a successful first year with a significant increase in student support. We are all constantly assessing how best to improve and innovate and how to make our bursary schemes even more effective by promoting awareness-raising campaigns and reinvesting in bursary funding."

"Experience in the first year of the bursary scheme suggests that some students were not fully aware of the new arrangements. There is concern that some prospective students failed to tick ‘data sharing’ boxes in their original student loan application form to local authorities. In consequence they inadvertently excluded themselves from receiving key bursary information from the Student Loan Company (SLC). It is vital we overcome this as quickly as possible,” said Malcolm Grant.

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