OFFA  » Quick facts

Information for:

Quick facts

Facts and figures on tuition fees and student finance

For students starting their studies in the academic year 2014-15:

Please note that there are different figures for part-time students, ‘continuing’ students and for students on sandwich work placements or study years abroad. For more about this, see our tables showing Fee and bursary limits (including exceptions) and state support thresholds.

There is a breakdown of fees by university/college in OFFA publication 2014/03, 2014-15 access agreements: revised data tables, available on our Publications page.

Facts and figures about participation in higher education

UCAS acceptance rates

UCAS entry rates to higher education for 18 year-olds from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods of England have increased by over 70 per cent since 2004 to reach 17 per cent in 2013 (i.e. nearly one in five of these young people are accepted to higher education). This is the highest rate ever, but still substantially lower than the entry rate of 47 per cent (i.e. nearly one in two) for 18 year-olds from the most advantaged neighbourhoods.

Eighteen year-olds from the most advantaged areas are 2.7 times more likely to enter higher education overall than 18 year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas, and 7.5 times more likely to enter one of the universities with the highest entry requirements.

Source: UCAS End of cycle report 2013. Note that this measures acceptances through UCAS only, not actual student numbers: some students apply through other routes, or do not take up offers.

Participation rates

The latest available data on actual student numbers shows that in 2012-13, 10.9 per cent of young, full-time undergraduate entrants to English higher education institutions were from areas with little tradition of people going to higher education. For mature students with no previous experience of higher education, this figure was 11.6 per cent. Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency performance indicators Tables T1a and T2a.

One in five (20 per cent) of the people in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods who turned 18 during the academic year 2011-12 entered higher education either that year, or the following year when aged 19. This compares to three in five for the most advantaged neighbourhoods. For those who turned 18 in 2004-05, just 14 per cent went on to higher education aged 18 or 19. So the latest rate is six percentage points higher, equivalent to a 43 per cent proportional rise. Source: Higher Education Funding Council for England publication 2013/28, Trends in young participation in higher education.

Overall, 49 per cent of people aged 17 to 30 participated in higher education in the 2011-12 academic year. Source: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Participation rates in higher education: academic years 2006/07 to 2011/12.

Acceptances of applicants aged 20 and over fell 7.1 per cent between 2011-12 and 2012-13, compared to a fall of 1.7 per cent for those aged 18 and younger. Source: Higher Education Council for England Impact of the 2012 reforms.

Back to top

Number of access agreements for 2014-15

A total of 162 universities and colleges have approved access agreements for 2014-15: 123 higher education institutions and 39 further education colleges.

Back to top

How much money do universities and colleges spend under their access agreements?

In the academic year 2012-13 (the most recent year for which we have data on actual investment), universities and colleges spent £563.8 million on access measures under their access agreements, not including funding contributed by the Government for the National Scholarship Programme (NSP). This was almost 28 per cent of their income from fees above the basic level.

Of this, they spent:

The Government contribution to the National Scholarship Programme added a further £47.8 million to overall investment in fair access.

Universities and colleges have told us in their access agreements for 2013-14 and beyond that they plan to substantially increase their access agreement investment each year to reach a predicted £718.9 million in the academic year 2018-19. This is shown in the chart below. For more details see OFFA publication 2014/03, 2014-15 access agreements: revised data tables, available on our Publications page.

Total access agreement investment 2011-12 to 2018-19

A breakdown of annual access agreement spending on financial support, access, student success and progression. Investment in all categories increases each year. Financial support is the largest category in all years accounting for more than half of annual investment.

Back to top


What is outreach?

‘Outreach’ is activity that helps to raise awareness, aspirations and attainment among people from disadvantaged backgrounds, e.g. summer schools that give a taste of university life, homework clubs for pupils who may not have anywhere to study at home, or universities forming and sustaining links with employers and communities.

How much are universities and colleges investing in outreach?

In the academic year 2012-13 (the most recent year for which we have data on actual investment), universities and colleges spent £74.7 million on outreach activities under their access agreements. This was a 30 per cent increase from £57.6 million in 2011-12.

Universities and colleges predict that they will invest £111.9 million in outreach via their access agreements in the 2014-15 academic year, increasing to £145.7 million by 2018-19.

For details of an individual institution’s spending plans please refer to its access agreement.

Examples of outreach measures in 2014-15

IntoUniversity is a national network of local learning centres that support children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attain either a place in higher education, or another chosen aspiration. In partnership with various universities, the centres provide academic support, employment mentoring, summer schools and evening/weekend activities, and give school pupils a chance to experience the type of focused, single-subject study that they would do at university.

St George’s Hospital Medical School runs Experiments Roadshows in schools for Year 5-12 pupils, facilitated by Student Ambassadors. The roadshows offer activities that put school science lessons into real-life medical/healthcare contexts, and thus help to raise aspirations and awareness of educational and career opportunities. Topics covered include prosthetics, radiography, physiotherapy, and para-medicine. There is also age-appropriate advice on entry routes and the application process.

Newcastle and Northumbria Universities jointly run the Students into Schools project in which undergraduate students work as tutors in local schools. This programme serves a dual purposes of raising aspirations and attainment in local schools while also helping the undergraduates learn skills that improve their employability and earn credit towards their degrees.

Back to top

Student success

What is student success?

‘Student success’ means supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds during their studies, so they are more likely to complete their courses, fulfil their potential and go on to their chosen career or postgraduate study – e.g. programmes to help students settle into university life, study skills support for mature students, or mentoring by graduates employed in the professions. Student success is an important aspect of fair access and has been a focus for access agreements since the 2012-13 academic year.

How much are universities and colleges investing in student success?

In the academic year 2012-13 (the most recent year for which we have data on actual investment), universities and colleges spent £72.5 million on student success activities for people from low-income backgrounds and other under-represented groups. This was the first year that OFFA separately monitored student success investment, so we do not have comparable data for previous years.

Universities and colleges predict that they will invest £106.9 million in 2014-15 through their access agreements on measures to improve student retention and success, rising to £130.9 million by 2018-19.

For details of an individual institution’s spending plans please refer to its access agreement.

Note: OFFA regulates activity that supports students from low income backgrounds and other under-represented groups. Institutions may also offer wider support that is available to all students and not all of their investment in that will be included in our figures – only the proportion that relates to students from low income backgrounds and under-represented groups.

Examples of student success work in 2014-15

Kingston University offers academic mentoring for students, particularly targeting support to those who enter with vocational qualifications. Trained undergraduate students, with the support of senior student mentors and academic staff, work with students face to face and online to address any issues they’re experiencing and thus improve retention, attainment and employability.

Bournemouth University’s GROW@BU scheme provides a holistic approach to student development and success where academics, peers, and professional staff work across the university to provide support such as tutoring, mentoring, coaching, and help with study skills.

At SOAS, University of London, there are two week-long courses of tailored support delivered before students start their course; one for students who are the first in their family to go to university and one for students aged over 21. Called Bridging Courses, they are designed for students who may have missed out on the informal networks of information, advice and guidance that are available to people who go to higher education straight from school or college, or have family members who attended university. The programmes include academic lectures, study skills workshops, personal skills sessions, work with student ambassadors, and support with writing their first undergraduate essay.

Leeds Beckett University’s Employability Hub provides on-line support, self-help modules, a drop-in service and access to information on opportunities, to help students develop their employability. Careers consultants and trained student volunteers are involved. The university also works with businesses to run an Employability and Enterprise Fortnight which includes sessions on various topics such as CV writing and interview techniques.

Back to top

Financial support

What is financial support?

There are three main types of financial support:

See below for some examples of financial support.

Note: OFFA regulates financial support that is specifically for students from low income backgrounds and other under-represented groups. Institutions may offer other support that is not included in our figures, for example merit-based scholarships open to all students, including those from more advantaged backgrounds.

How much financial support do universities and colleges give to students?

In the academic year 2012-13 (the most recent year for which we have data on actual investment):

In the academic year 2014-15:

What is a typical/average bursary?

Bursaries vary greatly from £100 to £9,000 or more per academic year, so it is impossible to give a ‘typical’ figure. In 2012-13, the average bursary amount for first-year students from the lowest income backgrounds was £1,268, which is £353 higher than in 2011-12 (£915).
Examples of the main types of bursary

Bursary criteria

In 2014-15, all institutions charging more than the basic tuition fee are obliged to offer National Scholarship Programme (NSP) awards of at least £2,000 to eligible first-year students: to be eligible students must have a household income of £25,000 or under, plus institutions may also use their own additional targeting criteria.
More information on the NSP.

In addition, many higher education institutions are offering other bursaries, scholarships and fee waivers aimed at students from under-represented groups in 2014-15. The criteria used are:

Back to top

Examples of financial support

Here are some examples of the main types of financial support.

‘Fixed’ bursaries

The University of Bolton provides Bolton Partnership Bursaries of £400 per to undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds who have done a preparatory course either at the university or one of a selected list of partners.

‘Sliding scale’ bursaries

The London School of Economics and Political Science provides a sliding scale of financial support according to household income:

Household income Bursary (given in instalments over three years)
From To
£0 £6,000 £18,000
£6,001 £18,000 £12,000
£18,001 £25,000 £10,500
£25,001 £30,000 £8,250
£30,001 £35,000 £5,250
£35,001 £40,000 £3,000
£40,001 £42,611 £2,250

Leeds City College offers bursaries on a sliding scale according to household income, and gives them in three instalments, one each term for the duration of their course:

Household income Term 1 Term 2 Term 3
From To
£0 £25,000 £250 £250 £500
£25,001 £42,600 £125 £125 £250

Back to top

Fee waivers

Birmingham City University offers a fee waiver of £1,250 to second-year students who are from low-income backgrounds and have excellent academic achievement, performance or potential. Students who went to particular partner schools or colleges get priority.

Nottingham University gives full first-year fee waivers to students who have been in care, followed by partial waivers in the following years, plus other financial support such as bursaries.

Loughborough University offers fee waivers to mature and part-time students, with the value of the waiver determined according to each student’s household income.

In-kind support

The University of Central Lancashire offers “UCLan portable financial credit” to second-year students. It is a contribution to the costs of books, equipment, travel costs, accommodation, child care, food and IT equipment.

The University of West London’s Aspire scheme offers credit towards the cost of learning materials, course equipment, bikes and clothing, with the aim of encouraging book-buying and helping prevent students leaving their courses early. Full-time students get £100 and part-time students get £50.

Back to top

Location-based awards

Some universities and colleges give awards to students who live in areas classed as having relative deprivation, or known to have low participation in higher education.

The University of Bristol offers a full tuition fee waiver and an annual bursary of £3,750 to full-time undergraduates who have participated in its outreach scheme with local schools, Access to Bristol, and who have a household income below £25,000. Students can convert £2,000 of the fee waiver into a cash bursary each year if they wish.

Brunel University’s Local Boroughs Scholarship is worth £6,000 annually, paid as a £5,000 fee waiver and £1,000 in cash or in-kind support. Up to 10 awards are given each year to undergraduate students with high academic achievement who attended a maintained school or college in the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon or Hounslow and who also meet one or more of the following criteria:

Subject-based awards

The University of Gloucestershire’s Disabled Students’ Sports Excellence Fund provides up to five bursaries of £1,000 cash and £1,500 fee waivers, plus other benefits, in each year of their course, to support students who have the potential to play sport at national, regional or University level.

King’s College London offers financial support packages to students from low-income backgrounds who are studying science, technology, engineering or maths subjects. The packages are worth up to £15,000 across three years, and students can choose to receive the whole amount as a bursary, or to have some/all of it as a discount on tuition/accommodation fees. Students from selected partner schools get priority for these awards.

Back to top