Student bursaries ‘failing to cut university drop-out rates’

More than £1.3 billion spent on student bursaries has failed to prevent poor teenagers dropping out of university, according to research reported in the Telegraph

A major study found that grants worth up to £4,000 a year had “no observable effect” on students’ chances of quitting their degree course.

The report – by the Government’s Office for Fair Access – found that drop-out rates remained at the same level whether or not students had been given additional cash for living expenses and course costs.

Researchers insisted that the most significant factor influencing a student’s decision to remain at university was their previous exam results rather than financial aid.

It follows a previous study by the regulator that found bursaries had no impact on teenagers’ chances of applying to university in the first place.

The disclosure suggests that hundreds of millions of pounds spent by universities providing subsidies for poor students each year was being squandered and could be put to better use.

It comes despite a sharp rise in bursaries in recent years as part of a Government drive to encourage more students from deprived backgrounds into higher education.

Prof Les Ebdon, director of OFFA, which was set up under Labour to promote university access, said: “Previous research by us showed that bursaries do not have an observable effect on the choice of university for disadvantaged young people.

“Now, this new piece of OFFA analysis shows that bursaries may not be the powerful retention tool that many currently believe them to be.”

The OFFA report covered from 2006 to 2011 – when student tuition fees were set at a maximum of £3,000-a-year before tripling to £9,000 in 2012…

Drop-out rates declined for the wealthiest students at around the same rate as those for the poorest over the period of the study, even though most of the latter group had claimed bursary support, it emerged…

Prof Ebdon said the watchdog would be encouraging universities to “rebalance their investment” away from bursaries and towards outreach programmes that help raise pupils’ exam results in schools. He has previously called for universities to reach out to pupils in primary schools to get them interested in the idea of taking a degree course when they hit their late teens…

More at: Student bursaries ‘failing to cut university drop-out rates’

What do you make of these findings? Is it a surprise that bursaries seem to have no impact on drop-out rates? How would you like to see the money better spent instead to achieve wider access? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Higher Education and News.


  1. LiterateCyNickS

    SchoolsImprove Heaven forbid that Labour’s ridiculous ‘50% to university’ target has led to growing drop-out rates!

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