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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

National Scholarship Programme update for participating institutions

1. This letter provides an update on the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) following the June 2013 Spending Review announcement (note 1), which outlined the Government’s spending plans for 2015-16.

Spending review announcement and communication to students

2. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sets the overall policy and funding level for the NSP and HEFCE has administered the fund on its behalf. In its spending review statement, the Government advised that it ‘will refocus the National Scholarship Programme to support postgraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds’ (see the HEFCE announcement).

3. Consequently, in 2015-16 the NSP will cease as an undergraduate programme. Allocations of NSP funds to institutions will continue as planned in 2013-14 (£100 million) and 2014-15 (£150 million), ensuring that support continues to be available to undergraduate student entrants in those years.

4. Institutions are urged to continue to provide clear information for students about their NSP schemes, to ensure that current and prospective higher education students are aware that NSP support is still available in 2013-14 and 2014-15. This should include information on eligibility criteria, application and/or selection and appeals processes, and how scholarships are awarded. Detailed advice on providing information to students on the NSP was published in January: see paragraphs 73-82 of ‘National Scholarship Programme 2014-15: Provisional allocations and guidance to institutions’ (HEFCE 2013/02).

5. Institutions should continue to deliver their NSP schemes for 2013-14 and 2014-15 in the same way as previously notified to us and/or to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) as detailed in their access agreement. This applies whether they provide awards for the first year of study only, or whether they chose to spread awards over later years. Institutions that have planned to deliver matched funding in years beyond 2014-15 will be expected to honour the match commitment in line with what has been promised to their students.

Evaluation of the NSP

6. A formative evaluation of the NSP is under way. It is evaluating the operation and impact of the NSP but is also considering the wider financial aid landscape. We intend to continue the evaluation because it will make a valuable contribution to the evidence base in terms of student financial support. We are grateful to individuals within institutions and NSP recipients for engaging positively with the evaluation.

Monitoring

7. We will continue to monitor the NSP via institutional returns to gain assurance that the funds are being used appropriately and to collect information from participating institutions on their NSP scheme and recipients.

8. We plan to issue guidance in early November for the end-of-year (2012-13) and in-year (2013-14) monitoring processes. This will be published alongside guidance for institutional widening participation strategic statements and access agreement monitoring 2012-13. The monitoring schedule is shown below:

Year of NSPIn-year monitoring submissionEnd-of-year monitoring submission
2012-13 January 2013 (completed) January 2014
2013-14 January 2014 January 2015
2014-15 January 2015 January 2016 (end of programme reconciliation)

Underspend

9. As part of the end-of-year monitoring each year we will require a financial summary from institutions, which should clearly show any unspent funds from the government allocation for that academic year.

10. If they wish, institutions will be permitted to roll forward up to £50,000 of the government allocation into the next academic year to ensure that there is the maximum opportunity for students to benefit from the programme. However, this rollover cannot extend into 2015-16. The original rules of the programme should still be followed. For example, full-time students must still receive no less than £3,000 of benefit under an NSP award (with a pro-rata amount delivered to part-time students), and institutions should aim to distribute their government allocation in the year for which it is given. Unspent government funds over and above £50,000 will be recovered by HEFCE.

11. HEFCE is the organisation that will manage the arrangements around the rollover or recovery of the government allocation; please discuss any queries relating to this with us. If an institution is unable to deliver matched funding it should discuss this with OFFA. Please speak to HEFCE and/or OFFA as early as possible if you anticipate any difficulty in managing your allocation.

12. It will not be possible to rollover any unspent government allocation into 2015-16, and we will conduct an end-of-programme reconciliation of funding after academic year 2014-15. Matched funding planned for allocation in later years should be given as promised to the student.

13. We will incorporate any recovered funds from the 2012-13 academic year into final allocations for 2014-15, to make best use of the funding. We will therefore issue final allocations after we receive the end-of-year monitoring returns for 2012-13 (note 2). Any recovered funds from future years (2013-14 and 2014-15) will be returned to BIS. More detailed information will be provided in the forthcoming monitoring guidance (see paragraph 8).

14. Our in-year monitoring for 2012-13 showed that institutions were forecasting a very low level of underspend out of total NSP funds. We hope that institutions will make every effort to continue to ensure that NSP funding is delivered to eligible students.

Further information

15.  Please see our web pages and FAQs.

16. We cannot at this stage give any indication of what the new postgraduate programme from 2015-16 may look like.

17. If you have any further questions about the NSP please e-mail nsp@hefce.ac.uk.

Yours sincerely

 

Heather Fry

Director of Education, Participation and Students



Notes

  1. See paragraph 2.32 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/209036/spending-round-2013-complete.pdf
  2. We are unable to incorporate recovered funds from 2013-14 into 2014-15 allocations, as final allocations for 2014-15 will be published in spring 2014, but end-of-year monitoring for 2013-14 will not be submitted until January 2015.

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Date: 20 August 2013

Ref: Circular letter 24/2013

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

Enquiries should be directed to:

Samantha Dyer or Siân Griffiths, e-mail nsp@hefce.ac.uk