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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sets the overall policy and funding level for the new National Scholarship Programme (NSP). HEFCE administers the fund on its behalf.

2.   This letter provides the provisional allocations for the first year of the NSP, 2012-13. We are announcing the provisional allocations now because we are aware that institutions need to start planning their matched funding. However, this letter does not contain full guidance about the running of the programme in 2012-13.

3.   Detailed guidance regarding the operation of the programme in 2012-13 and the action required of institutions will follow in April 2011, after it has been approved by BIS. We are thus publishing the provisional allocations earlier than the guidance to give institutions as much notice as possible about the scale of their matched funding requirement.

4.   The provisional allocations are at Annex A and the technical description to accompany the allocations is at Annexes B and C.

5.   Final allocations will be published in July 2011.

6.   This letter is for information. No action is required in response.


7.   The National Scholarship Programme was first announced as a 'student premium' by the Deputy Prime Minister on 15 October 2010. It was the final strand in the three-strand Fairness Premium which was to target funding at disadvantaged children and young people (the other two strands were an entitlement for all two-year-olds to 15 hours per week of pre-school education, and the Pupil Premium).

8.   The primary purpose of the National Scholarship Programme is to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the cost of their higher education study. The Secretary of State, Vince Cable, commented that the programme is 'designed to complement rather than replace what universities are already doing. The programme will remain flexible in its initial years to enable us to make adjustments in the light of experience on campus.' Therefore institutions should not assume that the programme will operate in the same way in future years.

9.   The broad outline of the programme was set out by BIS and posted on the HEFCE web-site on 10 February 2011.

Funding delivered through the NSP

10.   The purpose of the National Scholarship Programme is to provide a direct benefit to individual, eligible studentssee note 1. It will be available to students entering higher education from autumn 2012. Funding delivered through the programme cannot be used to fund outreach activities.

11.   The Government's contribution to the programme in financial year 2012-13 will be £50 million, rising to £100 million in 2013-14 and £150 million in 2014-15. Each eligible full-time student will receive a benefit of not less than £3,000, with a pro-rata amount delivered to part-time students studying a minimum of 25 per cent intensity of the full-time equivalent (FTE).

12.   It is intended that the £3,000 award funded from the Government’s contribution will be delivered in the first year of study. This will be matched by institutions. The guidance referred to in paragraph 3 will provide further detail about how institutions will be expected to match the Government’s contribution.

13.   The assumed matched contributions to the NSP from institutions intending to charge fees of more than £6,000 per year is at least 100 per cent. Such institutions should include information regarding their matched contribution to the NSP in their access agreements.

14.   Institutions intending to charge £6,000 or below per year for their fees would provide at least 50 per cent match contribution to the NSP. Such institutions will be asked to submit an addendum to their widening participation strategic assessments (WPSAs), setting out their plans in respect of the NSP.

15.   The Government has acknowledged that, during the initial year of the programme, the matched contribution requirements may mean some institutions cannot continue to invest the necessary resources into important outreach activity. In such circumstances, institutions submitting an access agreement to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) may make a case for a reduced level of match, which OFFA will consider. Similarly, institutions charging at or below £6,000 per annum for their fees may make a case to HEFCE through the WPSA addendum.

16.   Institutions charging fees at or below £6,000 per year may opt out of the programme. Any funds currently allocated to institutions that subsequently opt out would be returned to the total and redistributed to all other institutions participating in the programme.

17.   In addition, there are a small number of institutions whose allocations may be overstated because, when calculating their share, we are counting a significant number of students who transferred into their institution and therefore are not entrants to the course (see paragraphs 19-20 for further details of the allocation method). We are working with these institutions to establish the extent of the issue. Funds that are found to have been over-allocated will be returned to the total and redistributed to all institutions participating in the programme. Final allocations will then be published in July 2011 as stated in paragraph 4.

18.   Further details on the match-funding requirements and all other elements of the programme will be provided in the guidance to follow in April.

Funding method

19.   As advised by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, funds for the NSP have been broadly allocated according to the FTE numbers of HEFCE-fundable, home and EU entrants at each institution. Consequently, the amount each institution receives through the NSP is in direct proportion to the numbers of such students enrolled on its programmes.

20.   However, a small proportion of institutions have very few HEFCE-fundable FTE numbers, resulting in an allocation that would not deliver one full £3,000 scholarship. In such cases, we have rounded up the allocation to ensure that at least one full award can be offered.

21.   The technical description at Annex B provides more detail on the precise method for calculating the allocation. We will also separately e-mail the Higher Education Students Early Statistics survey or Higher Education in Further Education: Students survey contact for each institution with access details for the Higher Education Statistics Agency and Individualised Learner Record data that were used to inform the allocations.

22.   Further information regarding when in 2012 institutions will receive their NSP allocation will be provided in the detailed guidance to be published in April 2011.

23.   If you require any further information please contact Sarah Howls (tel 0117 931 7073, e-mail

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive


  1. The basic national eligibility criterion enabling students to apply for the NSP is a declared household residual income of £25,000 or less. Institutions will be able to set further eligibility criteria; there will be more discussion of this point in the guidance to be issued in April 2011.

Date: 23 March 2011

Ref: Circular letter 13/2011

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior management, Admissions, Widening participation, Access agreements, Finance

Enquiries should be directed to:

Sarah Howls, tel 0117 931 7073, e-mail