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Executive summary

Purpose

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

2. This document provides information about provisional NSP allocations for the academic year 2014-15 and guidance to institutions about the programme. This document informs institutions about a change in the funding method for the NSP in 2014-15 and consequent revisions to the arrangements for matched funding. The guidance also renews confirmation of the national eligibility criteria for students.

3. Following the first year of the formative evaluation of the NSP, and based on advice from the Minister’s NSP expert Steering Group, BIS has decided upon a number of changes to the programme to take effect from the 2014-15 academic year. The changes are as follows:

  1. Funding allocations to institutions will be calculated by a new method. This allocation method aligns better with the NSP eligibility criteria, using the principle that funding should be more focused on institutions that have a higher proportion of students from low-income backgrounds.
  2. The requirement for financial contributions from institutions will be set at the level previously planned for 2014-15 and included in their existing access agreements. Where this would result in financial contributions at a greater ratio than 1:1, the institution is free to make additional NSP awards and/or re-direct the excess to other forms of financial support or access and retention activity set out in their access agreement.
  3. Institutional financial contributions will only be required from institutions with an access agreement.
  4. Part-time students are eligible for all elements of the NSP menu including those relating to maintenance.

4. The document also explains how HEFCE intends to monitor the delivery of the NSP by institutions in 2013-14, and specifies the data that institutions should seek to collect in order to meet our monitoring requirements. It also gives information about the ongoing formative evaluation of the programme.

5. Institutions should note that the changes to the programme set out in this document, including changes to the allocation model, do not come into force until 2014-15.

Key points

6. The primary purpose of the NSP is to benefit individual students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds as they enter higher education.

7. The Government’s contribution to the programme will be £150 million in 2014-15 and remains at £3,000 per student (pro rata) in their first year of study. Provisional allocations can be found in Annex A. Final allocations for the 2014-15 academic year will be published in February 2014. Institutions will receive their full 2014-15 allocation in one payment in August 2014.

8. The Government has set very broad-based national eligibility criteria for the programme, based on household income. Students are eligible to be considered for a scholarship if their declared household residual income is £25,000 or less, whether they are full-time or part-time students. To be eligible, part-time students must be studying at a minimum of 25 per cent intensity relative to the full-time equivalent.

9. Each full-time student awarded a scholarship will receive a benefit of not less than £3,000 in their first year of study, with a pro rata amount delivered to part-time students also in their first year of study.

Summary of changes to the programme from 2014-15

10. The Government’s contribution to institutional schemes will be calculated using a new funding method. The new methodology supports the principle that funding should follow those individuals most in need. This means that those institutions which recruit more students from a disadvantaged background are likely to receive a higher proportion of the funding than in previous years of the programme, and those institutions which recruit fewer disadvantaged students are likely to receive a lower proportion. Further information about the new funding method can be found at paragraphs 30-34. A description of the data used to support the method is at Annex B for higher education institutions and Annex C for further education colleges, while details of the technical algorithms applied to Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data are at Annex E, and to ILR data at Annex F.

11. The change to the allocation method for the Government’s contribution has necessitated a move away from the 1:1 matched funding requirement. Instead of matching the Government’s contribution on a 1:1 basis (a 100 per cent match), institutions intending to charge above the minimum threshold for any of their full-time or part-time fees will be expected to maintain the level of their contribution to the NSP programme at that planned for 2014-15. Where this would result in a matched funding commitment greater than 1:1, the institution will be free to redirect the excess to any access or retention activity in their access agreement; such overmatch must thus be retained within the access agreement spend. The total level of planned spending on the NSP and other WP measures will be subject to the approval of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). Further information about arrangements for an institution’s NSP contribution is given at paragraphs 40-48.

12. For those institutions that have set out a planned overmatch in their 2014-15 access agreements, the requirement will be that the institutional contribution to the NSP is equal to the previously planned 1:1 match (that is, the planned spend less the overmatch element).

13. Institutions which intend to charge less than the minimum fee threshold for all their full-time and part-time courses will no longer be expected to offer any institutional financial contribution towards the programme, although they may do so if they wish.

14. Finally, the menu of options for part-time students has changed in that part-time students may now receive the same types of benefits as full-time students.

Monitoring arrangements

15. Institutions submitting access agreements for 2014-15 to OFFA will need to provide NSP programme information in those agreements. Institutions participating on a voluntary basis that do not submit an access agreement to OFFA will be required to submit NSP programme information to HEFCE by completing a template that can be accessed via the HEFCE extranet. Annex D shows a sample of that template.

16. Institutions will be required to submit two monitoring returns in respect of the 2013-14 NSP allocation through the OFFA/HEFCE access agreement and widening participation strategic assessment (WPSA) monitoring returns: one aggregated at institutional level in January 2014, and an individualised beneficiary return in January 2015. In-year monitoring for 2013-14 is due to be submitted by institutions in January 2014.

17. The individualised return should provide the aggregate number of awards delivered in the first term of the academic year and an estimate of the number still to be delivered. This early monitoring return is required by BIS to enable it to report to the Secretary of State and other Ministers on the progress of the programme.

18. A final monitoring return is to be submitted in January 2015 when the final figures for 2013-14 will be known. In this return we will require information at the individualised level that cannot be collected from other data sources.

19. Institutions are also expected to flag NSP recipients in 2013-14 on their data returns to HESA (for higher education institutions) or the Data Service (for further education colleges).

Action required

20. Institutions that submit access agreements to OFFA: Institutional access agreements for 2014-15 must include information regarding delivery of the NSP and the institution’s contribution. Access agreements are due to be returned to OFFA by Monday 8 April 2013.

21. Institutions not submitting an access agreement to OFFA: Institutions intending to charge £6,000 or less for their full-time fees and below £4,500 for their part-time fees – and therefore not submitting an access agreement to OFFA – must complete a template and upload it to the HEFCE extranet by Monday 8 April 2013.

22. We encourage institutions to upload their data as early as possible during this period so that any issues of data quality can be resolved before the deadline. Details on how to access the template will be sent to heads of institutions and to widening participation strategic statement, NSP and access agreement contacts.

Opting out

23. Participation in the NSP is compulsory for institutions intending to charge above £6,000 for any of their full-time undergraduate fees, or above £4,500 for any of their part-time undergraduate fees from 2014-15.

24. Institutions intending to charge £6,000 or less for their full-time fees and £4,500 or less for their part-time fees will not be required to make a contribution to the programme from 2014-15. Given the benefit the NSP offers to students we do not anticipate that such institutions will wish to opt out of the NSP. If an institution charging below the minimum fee threshold wishes to opt out it must inform us of this decision in the template provided on the extranet.

25. For such institutions, if we do not receive the template confirming plans for the NSP or notification of opt-out by the deadline of 8 April 2013, we will assume that the institution is not participating in the programme and we will remove its NSP allocation.

 

Date: 17 January 2013

Ref: HEFCE 2013/02

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior management, Admissions, Access agreements, Widening Participation, Finance, Other stakeholders with an interest in widening participation, fair access and the NSP

Enquiries should be directed to:

Clair Murphy, tel 0117 931 7138, e-mail nsp@hefce.ac.uk