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As part of the Government’s National Scholarship Programme, HEFCE has commissioned CFE and the Widening Participation Centre, Edge Hill University to carry out a formative evaluation of the scheme.

This report summarises the outcomes of evaluation activity undertaken between October 2011 and February 2012 during the scoping stage of the formative evaluation of the NSP.  The role of this formative evaluation is to help policy-makers, HEFCE and participating institutions to develop a fuller understanding of what works best and why in relation to the design and delivery of the NSP. The evaluation will also offer cumulative insights into the impact and influence that the NSP has on student decision-making, participation and retention amongst under-represented groups.

The evaluation is being conducted in a series of interlocking phases designed to capture longitudinal data from a range of stakeholders over the NSP’s first three years of operation. This interim report, produced prior to the implementation of the NSP, draws upon evidence captured through a review of existing documentation and UK and international literature on student financial aid, scoping interviews with members of the NSP Steering Group, and an online survey of all participating institutions. It aims to:

  • describe the ways in which institutions have set up the programme, considering whether institutions have been able to usefully incorporate the NSP into broader strategies for widening participation
  • provide an indication of the anticipated and the perceived impacts of the NSP, including possible benefits and early perceived impact on student choice
  • consider the appropriateness of aligning the NSP with the new 16-19 bursary scheme and review the interaction between the two schemes.

An addendum to this report and a summary of key findings from the first year were published in March 2013. A formative evaluation of year 2 of the NSP followed in November 2013.