OFFA monitoring report 2012

04 July 2012

Commenting on the annual monitoring report by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“We are pleased that OFFA has recognised the significant investment and effort that our universities have put into ensuring our doors are wide open to talented and able students from all backgrounds.  But we remain concerned that the Government’s access policies risk focusing too much on regulation and not enough on resolving the real problems.

“Universities themselves do not have the power to solve the root causes of the under-representation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds: under-achievement at school and poor advice on the best choices of A-level subjects and university degree course. So it is hard for universities to make rapid progress on achieving demanding and really quite specific targets which relate to much broader and complex socio-economic problems.

"As the OFFA report finds, Russell Group universities spend more in total than others and provide bigger bursaries. With one in eight universities, we provide nearly a quarter of all spending on bursaries and scholarships; a third of Russell Group students receive a bursary or scholarship. Over the next few years, Russell Group universities will pump millions more into outreach activities and financial support. We do, however, have limited funds and we need to make sure enough is also being spent on ensuring all students receive the first class education they deserve.
                                                      
“Russell Group universities already take a range of factors into account to ensure that we can identify the candidates with the most talent from all backgrounds. But it remains important that admission to university is based on merit and fairness to all candidates; any decisions about admissions must maintain high academic standards.

“Focusing on application and admission targets in isolation will not resolve the real problem and risks being counter-productive. It could distract attention, effort and resources from outreach schemes and collaborative work by Russell Group universities which are successful in increasing the number of disadvantaged students going to university.”

Notes to editors

  1. In 2010-11 English Russell Group universities spent £87.8 million of their extra fee income on bursaries. This represents an average of £5.5 million per university, with some spending as much as £10.6 million. Overall, this amounts to £2.5 million more per institution than the sector average. Nearly 40,000 students from the very poorest backgrounds attending Russell Group universities received bursaries or scholarships. Across the English Russell Group universities last year a third of all fee-paying undergraduate students were receiving an OFFA-countable bursary or scholarship worth an average of £1,507. 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. In 2010-11, the English Russell Group universities combined spent £7.6 million on OFFA-countable outreach activities, which is an average of £473,000 per institution. This is in addition to other investment by institutions. Russell Group universities are committed to an extensive outreach programme and support summer schools, access programmes, open days and special entry routes. See http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/widening-participation/ for more details of outreach activities and initiatives undertaken by Russell Group universities. Russell Group universities already engage extensively with schools, from sponsoring academies to tutoring and mentoring and partnerships with specific boroughs and schools.
  3. By 2015-16, our universities will be spending £28.8 million on outreach activities and £153.7 million on fee waivers, bursaries and scholarships for students. This represents an average per institution of £9.6 million with some of our universities spending as much as £17 million. Overall, this amounts to over £5.9 million more per institution than the sector average of £3.7 million.  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. Generous fee waivers mean that the average fees paid by students at Russell Group institutions will generally be well below the headline rate. Example of average fee levels after fee waivers at Russell Group Universities 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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