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OFFA announces decisions on 2013-14 access agreements

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) today announced its decisions on access agreements submitted by universities that wish to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 a year in the academic year 2013-14 [see note 1].

It has approved 2013-14 access agreements for 150 universities and colleges – 122 higher education institutions (HEIs) and 28 further education colleges (FECs) [note 2]. We expect to approve agreements for a further two FECs shortly [note 3].

Under 2013-14 agreements, universities and colleges plan to spend £671.8m a year on access measures by the academic year 2016-17 (up from £635.6m in 2015-16 under the 2012-13 agreements [note 4]). This equates to 26.7% of the fee income they estimate they will receive above the basic fee compared to 27.3% in 2015-16.

When the Government’s contribution to the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) [note 5] is included, predicted expenditure on access measures in 2016-17 rises to £809.5m (up from £772.3m in 2015-16). In 2011-12, the final year of the old fee and support arrangements when the maximum fee was £3,375, universities estimated [see note 6] that they would spend £403.1m (22.4% of higher fee income) on access measures.

The predicted expenditure on access measures of £809.5m in 2016-17 consists of: 

  • £298.3m on maintenance support e.g. bursaries and scholarships (£295.3 m in 2015-16) [note 7]
  • £58m on student choice of financial support (£24.7m in 2015-16) – this is where students can choose between maintenance support or fee waivers
  • £241m on fee waivers (£260.6m in 2015-16)
  • £110.6m on outreach (£108m in 2015-16)
  • £101.6m on retention (£83.7m in 2015-16).

On tuition fee levels, analysis shows that in 2013-14 (when two cohorts of students will be paying fees of up to £9,000): 

  • the estimated sector average fee is £8,507 (£8,385 in 2012-13)
  • this reduces to £8,263 when fee waivers are included (£8,123 in 2012-13)
  • when all financial support from universities and colleges including NSP is taken into account, the estimated average fee cost is £7,898 (£7,789 in £2012-13)
  • 6.7% of universities and colleges (10 institutions) will charge an average fee of £9,000 i.e. all their fees are £9,000 and will not be reduced by fee waivers (4% in 2012-13)
  • institutions estimate that 7.1% per cent of students (around 44,000 students) will be charged a net fee of £9,000, once fee waivers are taken into account (5.7% in 2012-13).

This year, OFFA negotiated with 48 institutions, six on both targets and spend, 16 on targets only and 26 on spend only. These negotiations resulted in changes in the balance of expenditure, strengthened targets, and additional investment of around £8.2m. 

Commenting on the decisions, Sir Martin Harris, Director of Fair Access, said: “These access agreements show a largely similar picture to 2012-13 access agreements. Predicted spending on both financial support and outreach activity is up significantly compared to spending under the old fee and support arrangements although, as with 2012-13 agreements, on financial support the balance has changed from predominantly bursaries and scholarships to a mixture of bursaries and scholarships, fee waivers and other support such as accommodation discounts.  

“Interestingly, access agreements for 2013-14 show a decrease of £19.6m in fee waivers and, at the same time, an extra £33.3m going into student choice – where students can choose between a discount on their tuition fee, or financial support such as a bursary or discounted accommodation. This change may, in part, be the result of greater student influence in the development of access agreements following OFFA’s new requirement for universities and colleges to state how they have consulted with students when drawing up their agreement. 

“We have also seen a significant 21.4% increase in expenditure on measures to improve student retention and students’ chances of obtaining a good degree and getting started on their chosen career. Such measures include well-coordinated, extended induction programmes to help students settle in and adjust to their learning environment and support to improve the rate at which low income and other under-represented students take up industry placements or a year studying abroad. 

“A key challenge now for OFFA is to expand the evidence base on what works best to improve access and retention as part of the joint strategy we will be developing with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). 

“Evidence to date suggests that sustained, targeted outreach to raise aspirations and attainment levels is key to success and we will therefore continue to encourage universities and colleges to expand their investment in this area.” 

We publish all access agreements online.

For 2013-14 access agreement data at sector level and for individual institutions see OFFA publication 2012/07, 2013-14 access agreements institutional expenditure and fee levels.

Ends

 

For further information, please contact:

  • Zita Adamson (OFFA Communications Manager) on 0117 931 7272
  • Sophie Mason (OFFA Communications and Press Adviser) on 0117 931 7204
  • or email press@offa.org.uk.

 

Notes to editors

  1. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent, non-departmental public body established under the Higher Education Act 2004 to help promote and safeguard fair access to higher education. The main way we do this is by approving and monitoring ‘access agreements’. All English universities and colleges offering undergraduate higher education courses must have an access agreement approved by OFFA in order to charge above the basic fee (in 2013-14 this will be £6,000 per year for full-time students and £4,500 for part-time students). For more about OFFA, please see our website www.offa.org.uk, particularly the Quick Facts and FAQ in the Press section.

An access agreement sets out: 

  • the fees the institution will charge
  • the access measures it will put in place. In 2013-14, these measures include: expenditure on outreach activities (e.g. masterclasses to help pupils improve their GCSE and A level grades, summer schools offering a taste of university life to pupils who may not have a family background in higher education and links with schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas); financial support for students including fee waivers, bursaries, scholarships, and support under the National Scholarship Programme; and expenditure on activities to support student retention and success
  • the targets that institutions set themselves to make progress in achieving and retaining a socially representative intake. All targets must be stretching but this will mean different things for different institutions depending on their access and retention record. 
  1. The total number of higher education institutions is two fewer than last year due to mergers. UCL and the School of Pharmacy (both HEIs) have merged to form one HEI. Leeds College of Music (an HEI) and Leeds City College (an FEC) have merged to become one FEC. 
  1. The two colleges are Reaseheath College and Warwickshire College. 
  1. Comparing predicted expenditure between 2015-16 and 2016-17 allows meaningful comparisons between 2012-13 and 2013-14 access agreements. This is because in these years, all students at the university or college will be under the new fee and support system that starts in September 2012, so fee income will be reasonably consistent between years. Before that point, some students will be under the new system and some under the old system, so fee income and access agreement commitments will vary considerably between years, which may give a misleading picture of the relative expenditure that an institution is making under their new agreement. 
  1. National Scholarships which are included in access agreements consist of fee waivers, bursaries and scholarships, discounts on student services (e.g. accommodation) and free foundation years. 
  1. We have not yet monitored access agreements for 2011-12 so do not have the final figure for expenditure on access agreements. 
  1. Access agreements include only bursaries and scholarships that benefit students from lower-income backgrounds and other groups that are under-represented in higher education. ‘Lower income’ is defined as any student with an assessed household income of up to £42,611 per year (that is, the Government threshold for state support for entrants in 2013-14). Other under-represented groups are defined as: students from lower socio-economic groups and neighbourhoods in which relatively few people enter higher education; students from some ethnic groups or sub-groups; students who have been in care; and disabled students. Many universities and colleges also provide financial support for other students as well – this expenditure is not included in access agreements. 
  2. When quoting the estimated average fee for 2012-13, please use the figure in the press release (this figure is based on final collection of 2012-13 data), rather than the figure for 2012-13 shown in table 2a of our 2013-14 data tables (OFFA publication 2012/07). The figure for 2012-13 shown in OFFA 2012/07 is based on institutions’ very latest projections of the numbers of students they will have in 2012-13, while figures in the press release compare what institutions have predicted this year for 2013-14 with what they predicted last year for 2012-13, as in OFFA publication 2012/06, Access agreements 2012-13 final data including initial teacher training. We have taken this approach throughout the press release, so for the purposes of consistency please use the figure in the press release.


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