Universities dig deep to keep scholarships alive

A number of universities have decided to use their own funds to replace state scholarship money that was axed last year

Most higher education institutions have been forced to cut the number of student awards made under the National Scholarship Programme after its budget for 2014-15 was unexpectedly slashed by £100 million in November.

Ministers have suggested that institutions should halve the number of awards to students from families earning less than £25,000 a year, while reducing the maximum financial support by £1,000 to £2,000.

But some institutions have decided to use their own reserves to try to plug the funding gap.

The University of Leicester will stump up some £700,000 to replace the sum it expects to lose next year, allowing it to fund the 233 scholarships, worth £3,000 each, that would otherwise be lost.

University College London will contribute £600,000 to ensure that 315 awards are made next year, while the University of Warwick has found £500,000 to cover two-thirds of the amount it is losing from the scheme, with awards falling to £2,000.

The University of York has dug up some £350,000 to cover about half the cuts, with students now able to claim £2,000 in accommodation fee discounts.

Universities were told to resubmit their 2014-15 access plans for widening access to higher education by 15 December, taking the cuts into account.

According to a survey of the revised plans by Media FHE, many universities were unable to fully compensate for lost scholarship funding, although several are doubling the amount available in cash to £2,000.

That follows criticisms by the National Union of Students that scholarship awards in the form of fee waivers were a “con trick” because students will never, on average, earn enough to pay back the final third of their loans.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England, which has said that it expects institutions to maintain the total level of access funding, welcomed the decision by some universities to increase their spending.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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