Study reveals lack of awareness over university bursaries and scholarships

It is amazing but true that one quarter of students and parents have not heard of the bursaries that each university has to provide to students in need. So, three years after the controversial top-up fees were introduced, along with a complicated paraphernalia of loans and scholarships, thousands of students don't have the information they need to choose the institution that is best for them.

This finding comes today in research by the Office for Fair Access (Offa). Carried out by Professor Claire Callender of Birkbeck, University of London, and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, it is the first big national research study into the issue.

Not only are many parents and students ignorant about bursaries but those who do know about them don't realise how useful they are in choosing a university. Universities offer differing amounts of money to different groups of students. Manchester University, for example, gives £5,000 a year to gifted students from families with annual incomes of £17,000 or less and Middlesex gives five awards of £10,000 a year, to name just two.

The study shows that only two-fifths of the students said they had sought information on bursaries before sending in their UCAS application form. Therefore, many students are not taking bursaries into account when making a crucial life-changing choice.

"The take-up of bursaries is working quite well now," says Professor Callender. "The real issue is to what extent bursaries are affecting which university students apply to and which they choose. They were meant to enable universities to attract different types of student but this is not happening as it should."

Offa's director, Sir Martin Harris, is delighted that bursaries have helped – along with grants and loans – to maintain university applications, particularly from poorer students. "It is clear, however, that young people and their advisers need to know more sooner about the financial support that's available. Schools and universities must work more closely to make sure that potential students receive financial and academic advice at a significantly early moment so that university options remain as open as possible."

The scope and clarity of information provided by universities and colleges about bursaries leave a lot to be desired, says the study. Almost one-half of students (44 per cent) thought there was too little information about how to apply for a bursary, though higher education institutions think they provide enough.

Many universities need to do more, says the study. Three-quarters of students and two-thirds of parents did not realise that universities and colleges must give a minimum bursary to students receiving the full state maintenance grant. And, almost half the students surveyed (47 per cent) thought bursaries were one-off payments given to students in their first year.

Offa has used the research to produce guidance. To get through to applicants before they fill in their UCAS forms, it calls on universities to target their information not only at students but also at higher-education advisers in schools and sixth-form colleges. Advisers play an important role in helping students. For example, just over one-third of students had found out about bursaries through their school or colleges. But, of the advisers questioned, 11 per cent had not heard of bursaries and did not know they existed.

The guidance calls on universities to target parents to receive information because they also play a big part in student's decisions. Two-thirds of parents believed there was not enough information about bursaries. Offa points to the University of Nottingham, which, together with Nottingham Trent University and New College Nottingham holds family suppers for potential students in Year 10 and 11 and their parents. At these dinners it hands out information about bursaries.

The guidance asks universities to provide clearer information about who qualifies for bursaries and when students will receive them. More than half of students thought bursaries were one-off payments they got in their first year or did not know when they got them.

Universities should let students know earlier whether they qualify for a bursary, says Offa. And they should monitor bursary take-up rates as the London School of Economics does. The LSE found that the take-up rate was lower among second-year than first-year students. This was because some students did not realise they had to reapply for a bursary each year. As a result, the LSE now distributes flyers at registration events for second years.

Finally, Offa recommends simplifying bursaries and scholarships because more than half of parents and advisers think they are too complex. The University of Reading, for example, reduced the number of income threshold bands for its main bursary to make the scheme easier to understand.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Year 2 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week