OFFA access agreements 2013/14

26 July 2012

Commenting on the access agreements published today by OFFA, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, said:

 “The access agreements published today demonstrate the continued commitment and enthusiasm of all English Russell group universities to ensuring every student with the qualifications, potential and determination to succeed has the opportunity to gain a place at a leading university, whatever their background.

“Russell Group universities already have many programmes to improve access but in the next few years they will be pumping millions more into outreach activities and financial support. By 2016-17 the 20 Russell Group universities in England will be spending £184.4 million on bursaries, scholarships and fee waivers aimed at the most disadvantaged, and £36.8 million on outreach activities, including working directly with schools and laying on access schemes and summer schools.

“In total they will be spending £225.9 million of additional fee income through their access agreements in 2016-17, compared to £212.3 million in 2015-16 - an increase of 6.4%.

“Next year Russell Group universities in England will on average be spending more than 32% of their additional fee income on measures to improve access - more than the 26.5% average across other higher education institutions. And once financial support is taken into account the estimated average cost of fees per student is less than £8,400 at all our universities and less than £8,000 at a quarter of them. 

“However, it is vital policymakers do not lose sight of the bigger picture by focussing too much on regulation instead of tackling the real issues. The root cause of the under-representation of disadvantaged pupils is under-achievement at school and poor advice on the best choices of A-level subjects and university degree courses. Universities cannot solve these problems alone and we hope that OFFA fully recognises the challenges of setting and achieving really quite specific outcome targets.

“If universities are only measured on their own intake it could even disincentivise them from continuing with activities in deprived areas which target the students who are the hardest to reach. Outreach schemes are often very successful at inspiring non-traditional students to study at a range of other colleges or universities but it is very difficult to ensure that these students will actually apply to the university funding the outreach scheme. Financial penalties for not meeting these targets would not only be unfair but they would also reduce money available for programmes to help poorer students win a place at all our universities.

“Finally, it is important to emphasise that admission to university is and should be based on merit and high academic standards must be maintained.”

Notes to Editors

  1. There are currently 16 Russell Group universities in England with four more joining 1st August. The list of 20 is: University of Birmingham; University of Bristol; University of Cambridge; Cardiff University; Durham University; University of Edinburgh; University of Exeter; University of Glasgow; Imperial College London; King's College London; University of Leeds; University of Liverpool; London School of Economics & Political Science; University of Manchester; Newcastle University; University of Nottingham; University of Oxford; Queen Mary, University of London; Queen's University Belfast; University of Sheffield; University of Southampton; University College London; University of Warwick; and University of York.
  2. The figure of £184.4 million for spending on bursaries, scholarships and fee waivers relates to the combined access agreement expenditure and Government National Scholarship Programme allocation.

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