UWE Bristol invests £13m support for students who are missing out on higher education

Issue date: 26 July 2012


UWE Bristol is committing £13 million a year to reach out and support students who despite obtaining the qualifications are still missing out on higher education because of their background.

The support includes some £9m in bursaries which provide students with direct support whilst at university. This is one of the largest investments according to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), which has just announced its 2013-14 access agreements.

On top of this, UWE is making a new investment of £450,000 in measures to boost students' employment prospects including paid internships, placements and career mentoring from regional businesses for target students, following this year's successful pilot scheme.

Students from low income backgrounds, care leavers, black and minority ethnic students, Access programme and disabled students will be able to receive considerable learning and support including a financial package worth up to £5,000 over their 3 years. The commitment builds on UWE's partnerships with the region's schools and colleges, and aims to widen participation among those who might not otherwise aspire to or progress to higher education. These initiatives are designed to help students achieve their qualifications and obtain graduate level employment when they graduate.

John Rushforth, Deputy Vice-Chancellor commented, “UWE has been in the vanguard of offering bursaries rather than fee waivers since they allow the University to support students whilst at university. Living costs rather than concern about fees, which are deferred until after graduation, are still one of biggest hurdles to higher education. Many universities this year have switched more to direct bursaries for students rather than offering fee waivers because of this.”

The £13 million access and outreach activity in the University's Access Agreement includes:

• More than 1000 bursaries for new students from key target groups with income below £25K.

• Key target groups include care leavers, disabled people, refugees, those from low participation neighbourhoods, mature students, students participating in UWE's Heading Higher Passport Plus compact scheme or students in UWE's Federation colleges.

• UWE is doubling the number of bursaries worth £3,000 in the first year to over 1,000 - cash of £1,000 and £2,000 towards accommodation costs.

• Over 200 bursaries between £250 and £750 are provided for part-time students in their first year.

• All students who receive a bursary in their first year will be entitled to a Progression Bursary in the subsequent years of study.

• The Learner's Support Fund is increased to £700,000. This supports students who are facing financial hardship and disabled students.

• New investment of £450,000 in employability and enterprise measures including paid internships, career mentoring and work experience.

• Additional investment in outreach to schools and colleges building informed awareness of the personal and career benefits of higher education These investments build on UWE's strong record in enabling high levels of employability in graduate level jobs. UWE is twelfth among all universities in England for low unemployment among its graduates. Other support comes from UWE's internationally recognised peer assisted learning, leadership programme and advice and guidance.

Maggie Westgarth, Head of Employability and Enterprise at UWE said, “We have arranged 110 subsidised undergraduate internships this current summer vacation – including five “enternships” helping students set up their own businesses. It has been so successful that next year we plan to offer more.

“Internships, placements and other forms of high quality work experience are key to graduate employability, with students having a much better chance of a good graduate employment outcome if they've had good quality employment experience whilst at university.”

In the announcement by OFFA, Sir Martin Harris, Director of Fair Access, said, “These access agreements show a largely similar picture to 2012-13 access agreements. Predicted spending on both financial support and outreach activity is up significantly compared to spending under the old fee and support arrangements although, as with 2012-13 agreements, on financial support the balance has changed from predominantly bursaries and scholarships to a mixture of bursaries and scholarships, fee waivers and other support such as accommodation discounts.

“A key challenge now for OFFA is to expand the evidence base on what works best to improve access and retention as part of the joint strategy we will be developing with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

“Evidence to date suggests that sustained, targeted outreach to raise aspirations and attainment levels is key to success and we will therefore continue to encourage universities and colleges to expand their investment in this area.”

For more information on OFFA see http://www.offa.org.uk/

For more information on UWE's HHP scheme see http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/aboutus/departmentsandservices/professionalservices/schoolsandcolleges/headinghigherpassport.aspx

For more on UWE's employment figures see http://info.uwe.ac.uk/news/uwenews/news.aspx?id=2320

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