Further slashes for poorest students

Government cuts to access funding will deprive Oxford’s lowest-income students of a £2,500 tuition fee grant for their first year of study.

The timing of this decision means that students from lower-income families who interviewed in December will be left without the fee waiver they thought they would receive when they decided to apply to Oxford.

Moves made by the University to combat the cuts mean that they will affect those who have a household income of less than £16,000.

The University spreads NSP funding between bursaries and fee waivers to lower-income students in their first year.

The department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) had initially brought forward plans to end the National Scholarship Programme in the academic year 2015/2016.

However, in a November statement Minister David Willetts announced his intention to bring forward the planned end of the NSP by reducing funding to the NSP from £150 million to £50 for the academic year 2014-15.

A spokesperson for the University said: “the University has committed to covering two-thirds of the government shortfall this year”.

He went on to stress that while “Oxford is not reducing the number or value of bursaries awarded to students, or the amount of money spent on outreach … a small number of students will be affected in the level of their fee waivers”.

Rachel Pickering, the OUSU VP for Access and Academic affairs, expressed her disappointment at the government move: “it was with great dismay that I read of the government cuts to the National Scholarship Programme, brought forward with almost no notice to 2014/2015”.

“These cuts will affect those from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds and will include some of those who came to interviews in December”

“Students may have chosen their institution based on fee and bursary data that is no longer accurate”.

“It is disappointing that government cuts, made mid-year, have resulted in an unfair admissions round for UCAS applicants that might leave some without the support they thought they would have when they applied”.

While Oxford is absorbing some of the cuts and protecting the students’ bursaries she stressed that “this story may not be the same at other institutions”.

Since 2012 students within this wealth bracket have benefited from a government-funded fee waiver, which reduced their tuition fees to £3,500 for their first year of study only.

The NSP was set up by the government in 2012 to provide funding to lower income students entering higher education.

For the University of Oxford this means a £684,000 reduction in funding.

In a statement last week University College London announced that it would be forced to discontinue its tuition fee bursary in order to maintain the value of NSP awards to first year students.

Southampton University, which this year received funding for 306 students on scholarships of £3,000 is reducing the number of awards next year to 189 and cutting their value to £2,000.

Defending the planned reduction in funding, Willetts said: “we are able to redirect £25 million to establish a new network of collaborative outreach”. He also promised: “£50 million from the NSP would be refocussed in 2015/16 to support students from less advantaged backgrounds to access postgraduate education”.

The NSP was introduced in 2012 by the Liberal Democrats in the wake of tripling undergraduate fees