OFFA/HEFCE report on access agreements

06 June 2013

Commenting on the annual monitoring report by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

"As OFFA reports universities are investing significantly in financial support for students and outreach measures, and highly selective institutions have made considerable efforts to improve access.

"Russell Group universities are absolutely committed to ensuring our doors are wide open to talented and able students and spend more than other institutions on bursaries. However, we face real difficulties as we seek to make rapid progress on achieving demanding and quite specific targets.

"There are complex socio-economic problems which mean students from disadvantaged backgrounds all too often fail to achieve the right grades in the right subjects or do not apply to selective universities. Our universities put a lot of effort into trying to help solve these problems but we cannot do so alone.

“Outreach work, including summer schools and mentoring, can be successful at inspiring students from a wide variety of backgrounds to apply to a range of universities and has an important role to play.

“But no-one can guarantee that those students will go on to apply successfully to Russell Group universities so it is hard for us to show - as Offa asks - that these measures are directly related to improving access at our institutions.

“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.”

Notes to editors

  1. In 2011-12 English Russell Group universities spent £106.8 million of their extra fee income on bursaries. This represents an average of £5.3 million per university, with some spending as much as £10.5 million. Overall, this amounts to £2.25 million more per institution than the sector average. 74,550 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 £1,433. 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 2011-12, the English Russell Group universities combined spent £15 million on OFFA-countable outreach activities, which is an average of £750,000 per institution, an increase of 58% on the previous year. 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.
  3. More details of outreach activities and initiatives undertaken by Russell Group universities can be found here. Russell Group universities already engage extensively with schools, from sponsoring academies to tutoring and mentoring and partnerships with specific boroughs and schools.

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