Education: University scholarships take pain out of tuition fees

As sixth formers begin preparing university applications for next year, one institution is launching pounds 1,000 scholarships to tempt prospecti ve candidates. Since would-be students are now facing the costly prospect of tuition fees and the abolition of grants, the offer could mark the start of a trend, writes Lucy Ward, Education Correspondent
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The Independent Online
Students applying to the University of Wales, Bangor, have the chance to win the equivalent of a year's tuition fee under a new scholarship scheme.

The university launched the offer, which it plans to extend next year, as it emerged that other institutions are also considering similar moves amid fears that tuition charges being introduced next September could deter potential students.

Under the Bangor scheme, eight departments from English to engineering will each offer a pounds 1,000 scholarship, to be awarded by competition based on an essay, project or assignment.

The sum, payable in three instalments during the undergraduates' first year, exactly covers the maximum amount students will be expected to pay annually for tuition under plans announced by the Government in July.

Charges will be means tested according to parental income, and about one-third of students will be liable for the full amount, while a further third pay nothing and the rest are charged on a sliding scale.

Bangor's academic registrar David Roberts said that, at a time when students were increasingly worried about their finances, the scholarships were expected to be "extremely attractive" to applicants.

The offer also represents a useful marketing tactic at a time when universities fear a rush for the last free higher education places this year and initial wariness over fees could mean fewer applications for next September.

The applications process for 1998 entry has already begun, but the Government has not yet spelt out the detail of its fees proposals.

At a conference of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals last week, the higher education minister Baroness Blackstone promised an announcement within a fortnight, but universities fear some questions could remain unanswered until later in the autumn, when many applications will have already been made.

Dr Geoffrey Copland, vice-chancellor of the University of Westminster and chair of the 26-strong Coalition of Modern Universities, an organisation representing many of the former polytechnics, said many institutions were considering offering scholarships and bursaries but could not act without more detail on fees.

He said: "There is a real concern among CMU and I think widely that there may be students who will be deterred from taking up places."

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