Financial incentives – and free laptops – to be offered as universities try to woo students


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The Independent Online

Bright A-level candidates are being wooed with financial incentives this autumn as universities struggle to cling on to high-flying students.

Rewards such as £3,000-a-year bursaries and free laptops are being offered by middle-ranking universities to students with at least two A grades and one B at A-level.

The offers – stemming from the Government's decision to allow universities to expand if they accept AAB students – are revealed as 350,000 students receive their results today.

Last night a leading academic claimed that the student recruitment war generated by the Government's higher education reforms is forcing universities to behave like football teams in search of top talent.

Earlier this year the Coalition decided to allow universities to increase their student numbers provided they recruit high-ability entrants. A total of 20,000 places will be available in this scheme. Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, said: "Universities are like football managers. In order to secure their standing, they have to recruit the best available talent now that the Government has freed up student places."

Bristol is now planning to offer 600 additional places to AAB candidates and University College London 300. Universities outside the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the most selective higher education institutions in the UK, are responding by offering financial incentives in a bid to keep top students on their own courses.

A survey by i revealed that Coventry was offering £1,000 a year "academic excellence scholarships" to AAB students or a £1,500 discount on university accommodation, Bradford is offering £1,500 in the first year and £1,000 thereafter. Northampton is offering £2,000 per year to those who put it down as their first choice. Students accepting the offer will be expected to act as an ambassador for future students and secure a 2:1 degree pass. Lincoln is offering those with the highest UCAS tariff a scholarship of £3,000.

Today's A-level results are expected to show grades and pass rates pegged at roughly the same level as last year, when 27 per cent of all scripts were awarded an A* or A grade pass.

Today's A-level results are sure to trigger a scramble for university places because candidates outnumber course slots by 100,000.