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Higher Education: Scholarships

Volume 459: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many and what percentage of UK higher education institutions spent their full budgeted levels on income-assessed non-repayable bursaries for undergraduate students in each year since 1996; (131418)

(2) what estimates have been made of the total value of unclaimed non-repayable bursaries and scholarships for students at higher education institutions in each year since 2001.

[holding answer 16 April 2007]: The Department does not have these figures. Prior to 2006/07 bursaries were solely a matter for individual HE institutions and information was not collected centrally.

However, we are aware that following the introduction of access agreements in 2006, Higher Education Institutions have budgeted to spend in excess of £300 million on bursaries and scholarships benefiting students from low-income backgrounds and other underrepresented groups by 2010/11. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is responsible for the annual monitoring of access agreements from academic year 2006/07 and will report on the outcome in autumn/winter 2007.

As I said in the Higher Education debate on 15 March 2007, Official Report, column 483, I am aware that some concerns have been raised about a potential underspend on bursaries in some universities. I am monitoring that situation very closely and encourage any universities forecasting a genuine underspend on bursaries to invest in other measures to improve social inclusion. However, I am also aware that the scale of the underspend has been exaggerated in some reports.