Duncan: University’s scholarship is “fair”

coalition govThe University’s plan to fill a funding cut in the National Scholarship Programme by more than £350,000 is “fair”,  Secretary and Registrar David Duncan has said.

The government announced in November that it would slash its part of the funding for the programme – which provides financial help for the poorest students – by £100 million from the next academic year.

The University’s pledge fills almost half of £709,000 shortfall created by the move.

But the Times Higher Education magazine has learned that some universities are offering to fill a much higher gap in the shortfall.

The University of Warwick is pledging £500,000 to cover two-thirds of the cut whilst University College London and the University of Leicester are stumping up £600,000 and  £700,000 respectively – almost the entire government cut.

Mr. Duncan said that the University admits a large proportion of low-income students among the Russell Group universities and so the plans were fair.

“The additional University allocation of £350,000 will help to address the shortfall created by the unexpected change in government policy,” he said.

“Unlike some institutions, we do not ration the number of awards we make under the National Scholarships Programme.”

He also insisted that scholarships would still be awarded to those who earn up to £35,000 a year.

“All those from the lowest income backgrounds will receive scholarships of £4,000, with smaller bursaries available to those on higher income brackets up to £35,000 pa.

Higher value bursaries are available for care leavers and foundation year students,” he added.

The shortfall announced by the University came after a campaign by YUSU President Kallum Taylor, who urged officials to “plug the gap” to ensure those students who had already opted for York were not financially burdened.

Mr. Taylor welcomed the change in direction but said that the University’s plans were not “100 per cent”.

“It’s not 100 per cent no, but for York, it is a huge change in direction,” he said.

“Other institutions have offered more money, and others have offered less – and that’s clearly down to the pressure placed on them by interests within, and ultimately, their varying sizes, student numbers, types of student, and overall finances, so to judge them all on the same terms would be flawed.”

The YUSU President added that the government should be “taken to task” on its move to slash funding.

“There’s also bigger politics involved,” he said.

“Many institutions are reluctant to put up the entire 100% as they don’t want the government to assume that they can pass these costs off onto institutions easily… It’s amazing that £354,500 in the form of cash bursaries will protect this year’s intake, but that money is essentially students’ money that could’ve gone elsewhere, so it would be dangerous for this to happen year in, year out. The government should be taken to task on this in the long run.”

Original plans in the Government’s Spending Review last year prompted an axe concern by YUSU officials after ministers announced a slash in the National Scholarship Programme’s budget from £150 million to £50 million for the 2015-16 academic year.

But the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation insisted that the scheme would not be scrapped following its introduction by the Coalition government as tuition fees were trebled.

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