Oxbridge threatened with sanctions over access

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Image Credit: Photo © Jonathan Billinger (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Oxford University has been threatened with sanctions from the Government’s new higher
education regulator if it fails to improve its access statistics.

Oxford is among three universities in the UK, the other two being Cambridge and the Royal
Northern College of Music, to have conditions placed on their registration with the Office for
Students (OfS).

The OfS has called for an evaluation of current spending on bursaries for undergraduates
from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Concern has been expressed about these bursaries previously by the Office For Fair Access,
the predecessor to the Office for Students.

The Director of Fair Access and Participation for the OfS, Chris Millward, expressed these
concerns in the Times Higher Education, where he claimed that these institutions would be
vulnerable to fines if they do not meet their promises for improvement before the time
evaluations of progress are due to be submitted next February.

Milward expressed his concerns about the bursaries, arguing that: “They have for some time
continued to invest a very substantial proportion [of access spending] in bursaries for
students, and that’s not wrong necessarily, but what we really do need to know is [whether]
the investment they are delivering will deal with the big challenge they have around access”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Oxford University told Times Higher Education that
bursaries, and other access spending were “encouraging disadvantaged students to apply to
oxford and helping them thrive in their studies here”, adding that the university was well on
track for February’s deadline.