OFFA monitoring outcomes report

29 September 2011

Commenting on the publication of OFFA’s monitoring outcomes report for bursary, scholarship and outreach spending by universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, said:

“We are committed to ensuring that every student with the qualifications, potential and determination to succeed at a Russell Group university has the chance to do so. As this report on 2009-10 spending shows, English Russell Group universities are going way beyond OFFA’s requirements and the sector average to provide very significant investment in bursaries, scholarships and outreach. 

"Russell Group universities are the best for bursaries. Not only are our bursaries bigger, but our universities spend more in total than others. With one in eight universities, we provide nearly a quarter of all spending on bursaries and scholarships. About one in three Russell Group students receive a bursary or scholarship. In 2009-10 alone English Russell Group universities spent £82.2 million of their extra fee income on bursaries. This represents an average of £5.1 million per university, with some spending as much as £11 million. Overall, this amounts to over £2.2 million more per institution than the sector average. Over 37,000 students from the very poorest backgrounds attending Russell Group universities received bursaries averaging £1,641. This is more than five times the minimum bursary of £319 required by OFFA.

“Our aspirations for access go even further. Over the next few years, Russell Group universities will pump millions more into outreach activities and financial support. By 2015-16, our universities will be spending £28.8million on outreach activities and £153.7million on fee waivers, bursaries and scholarships for students. Russell Group institutions will be investing 32.3% of their fee income above £6,000 in these measures to widen access to poorer students – significantly more than many other universities. Generous fee waivers mean that the average fees paid by students at Russell Group institutions will generally be well below the headline rate.

“As OFFA recommends, Russell Group universities will continue to review their bursary and outreach work, to ensure that they target the right students and strike the most effective balance between outreach and bursaries.

“However, A-level (and equivalent) results in the right subjects are more important than money in deciding whether a student will go to a Russell Group university. Misinformation, lack of confidence and misunderstandings about the costs and benefits of university education contribute to the under-representation of students from lower-income backgrounds. So, we are concerned that the Government’s proposals on access risk focusing too much on regulation rather than resolving these real problems. The emphasis on targets and powers for OFFA could distract attention, effort and resources from the many successful access schemes run by Russell Group Universities or even disincentivise universities from continuing with some activities in deprived areas which target the students who are the hardest to reach.”

Notes to editors

  1. The OFFA monitoring report includes information about expenditure of additional fee income on lower income and other under-represented groups only. Therefore, this figure does not include scholarships and bursaries funded from other sources, or awarded to students outside of the OFFA target groups.
  2. Sir Martin Harris, the Director of Fair Access, has acknowledged that without the efforts of our universities in outreach programmes to date, we would have seen a decline in both the absolute and relative participation rates of such students in the most selective institutions. (What more can be done to widen access to highly selective universities? Sir Martin Harris, April 2010 p.48).  In 2015-16 the £28.8million which Russell Group Universities will spend on outreach measures will be used to support numerous summer schools, open days, special entry routes and access programmes to give students from lower socio-economic groups the best possible chance of winning a place.  See for more details of outreach activities and initiatives undertaken by Russell Group universities.
  3. By 2015-16 Russell Group universities in England plan to spend £153.7million of their additional fee income on financial support for students. This represents an average per institution of £9.6million with some of our universities spending as much as £17million. Overall, this amounts to over £5.9million more per institution than the sector average of £3.7million.  This investment will be targeted so that those in most need of financial support receive the help they need.  Of course, access to Government loans means that no student will have to pay their fees upfront, and loan repayments are only required from graduates once they are earning a reasonable salary.  Students from poorer families will also be entitled to Government grants to help with living costs.
  4. OFFA estimates that access agreement expenditure as a proportion of fee income above the basic fee will be 32.3% in 2015-16 across the Russell Group, compared to 26.7% across all HEIs.
  5. Example of average fee levels after fee waivers at RGUs include £8,386 at King’s College London, £8,355 at University of Oxford and £8,168 at University of Bristol. Across the 16 Russell Group institutions the average figure is £8,571.


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