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Executive summary


1. This document presents the outcomes from HEFCE’s monitoring of the Student Opportunity allocation (SOA) and the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) for 2014-15, and a summary of the NSP’s outcomes for the three years of the programme from 2012-13 to 2014-15.

Key points

2. HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) have carried out joint monitoring of institutions’ widening participation (WP) activity expenditure in 2014-15. OFFA published its outcomes of access agreements monitoring for 2014-15 in May 2016.

3. Following our 2016-17 grant letter from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, HEFCE is changing its approach on SOA funding and is retargeting the funding in 2016-17 to support government priorities. Further changes to SOA funding for 2017-18 are proposed in our consultation to the sector on funding to support widening access and successful student outcomes, including progression to postgraduate study.

4. The key findings from the SOA monitoring for 2014-15 are:

  1. Overall the higher education (HE) sector has continued to increase its investment in WP activities. The sector’s investment in WP activities has risen from £802.5 million in 2013-14 to £842.2 million in 2014-15. The increases have been made to support activity across the student lifecycle: in outreach activity; in academic and pastoral support for students while on their courses; and in supporting their progression from HE into employment or postgraduate study. For the first time the HE sector has reported under a student hardship category, where expenditure amounted to £37.5 million for 2014-15. The total sector investment on WP activity and hardship for 2014-15 was £879.7 million.
  2. In accounting for the funding sources used towards WP activity and hardship, institutions demonstrated that in 2014-15 the HEFCE SOA remained a key source of funding for investment supporting WP work across the student lifecycle and supporting students in hardship.
  3. The HE sector has made considerable progress to widen access to HE, support students to stay on course and support disabled students during the last decade as a result of the sustained institutional investment in WP, including through the SOA.
  4. The increasing sector investment in WP activities over the years provides a clear signal of institutional commitment to supporting students across the student lifecycle. The activity described in the returns demonstrates the importance of HEFCE’s funding in helping their efforts to widen access, improve student outcomes and support students in financial hardship. Supporting widening access and successful student outcomes will remain a key priority for HEFCE into the future.

5. The key findings of the NSP monitoring for 2014-15 are:

  1. 2014-15 was the final year of the NSP, which operated for three years from 2012-13.
  2. A total of 291 institutions participated in the 2014-15 NSP scheme, with 264 institutions delivering NSP awards to the 2014-15 cohort.
  3. Overall, in 2014-15, the sector delivered NSP awards over and above the minimum numbers required: 72,333 students from the 2014-15 cohort received an NSP award in 2014-15 (equating to a full-time equivalent of 69,929). This is 47,403 more than the minimum required number of students (24,930).
  4. A total of £202.6 million was allocated to students through the programme in 2014-15, of which £170.3 million was delivered to the 2014-15 entry cohort, £25.2 million to the 2013-14 entry cohort who were in their second year of study and £7.1 million to the 2012-13 cohort who were in their third year of study.
  5. Over the three years of the programme, a total of £503 million was spent on eligible recipients through the NSP. This comprises £196.5 million of government allocation and £306.5 million in institutional matched funding (including minimum and additional matched funding).
  6. 131,586 students received the NSP across the lifecycle of the scheme: 122,916 full-time students and 8,670 part-time. This equates to a full-time equivalent total of some 125,777.
  7. The government funding of £196.5 million was able to attract institutional matched funding of £306.5 million for the benefit of students.
  8. The final report of the external evaluation of the NSP, undertaken by CFE Research and Edge Hill University, demonstrated that the NSP succeeded in its aim to provide financial support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The research suggests that the NSP complemented existing forms of support, and generally did not duplicate existing financial aid or displace other WP activity.
  9. Overall, the evaluation of the NSP found that students and institutions supported the idea that the NSP, and financial support in general, could play a role in supporting student success. Financial support can positively enhance the student experience and student wellbeing, by reducing the need for paid employment and enabling students to participate in social and enrichment activities like internships, extracurricular clubs and volunteering.

Action required

6. This report is for information.

Date: 6 July 2016

Ref: HEFCE 2016/11

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Implementation of widening participation including access, student success and progression and the National Scholarship Programme, Finance

Enquiries should be directed to:

Anju Kataria (tel 0117 931 7153, email for Student Opportunity allocation monitoring

Kirsty Johnson (tel 0117 931 7443, email for National Scholarship Programme