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 2013-14

Pathways to Law is a national programme delivered by seven universities, which helps young learners from disadvantaged backgrounds to get places at competitive law schools and go on to a career in law. It includes academic sessions that help students to find out which areas of law they are most interested in and thus which course would suit them. The scheme also provides work placements, and focused information, advice and guidance to help them make competitive applications. An annual national conference allows members to experience being part of an academic community and to develop social skills.

In the ‘Pem-Brooke Access Scheme’, Oxford University’s Pembroke College has based a tutor at Brooke House (B6) Sixth Form College in Hackney, east London, to run sustained curriculum enrichment activity. Since 2008, the number of B6 students winning places at Russell Group universities has more than tripled. The first successful Oxbridge students took their places in 2010 and applications to Oxford have also risen significantly.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance uses distance learning to reach out to regions with fewer music and dance opportunities for young people – often rural areas with historically low participation in higher education. It has piloted a distance learning music A level programme with a partner in the South West and is discussing similar initiatives with The Sage Gateshead in north-east England. This work is helping the conservatoire make links with regional centres of excellence and thus build networks through which potential students can progress to higher education.

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 2013-14

Edge Hill University has invested in research that identified poor attendance as a key indicator of ‘at risk’ students. It has therefore improved its tracking and monitoring processes so that students who are missing classes can be identified and helped at an early stage. The university has also changed its induction process, revised its personal tutorial system to give more opportunities for direct contact and reviewed the way students are assessed and given feedback on their work.

Students from under-represented backgrounds at Brunel University are mentored by a qualified professional who works in a sector or industry related to the student’s subject or career aspiration. Evaluation of the programme shows that those who have been mentored are more likely to be in employment six months after evaluation than other students; four out of five students reported ‘great impact’ or ‘some significant impact’ from being part of the programme.

People who have been in local authority care receive targeted support at Newman University. This begins before application with priority acceptance on HEADstart, Newman’s pre-entry course for undergraduates. Once accepted, care leavers can attend pre-induction events to assist with the smooth transition into university life, such as meeting key staff and familiarising themselves with the campus; and during their courses, care leavers have guaranteed access to year-round accommodation and specialist student support.

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

Falmouth University gives a bursary of £1,000 in cash in each year of study to students who were in local authority care aged 16. It also offers a £1,000 cash bursary to first-year students with a declared disability other than dyslexia.

The University of Gloucestershire offers a £500 cash bursary to students whose household income is below £25,000 per year but who are not eligible for the university’s National Scholarship Programme awards.

‘Sliding scale’ bursaries

The University of Exeter’s bursaries are scaled according to household income as follows:

Household income Bursary value
From To
£0 £16,000 £2,500
£16,001 £20,000 £1,500
£20,001 £35,000 £1,000
£35,001 £42,600 £500

The University of Nottingham offers the following ‘Core Bursary‘ to students on low incomes:

Household income Bursary value
From To
£0 £15,000 £3,000
£15,001 £25,000 £2,000
£25,001 £35,000 £1,000
£35,001 £42,600 £750

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.

Undergraduate students who come from an area classed as one of the 10 per cent most deprived in the UK, and who also have a household income below £15,000 and AAB grades at A level (or equivalent) are offered a Promise Scholarship by Newcastle University. It is worth up to £9,000 each year and can be taken as a fee waiver (potentially giving the student free tuition throughout the course) or a combination of fee waiver and cash.

The University of East Anglia awards free accommodation and a fee waiver to students from lower-income backgrounds who attended City Academy Norwich.

Subject-based awards

To help widen access to professional careers, King’s College London offers first year fee waivers of £9,000 (in other words, a free first year) to up to 85 undergraduate students who are studying certain courses it has designated as ‘Access to Professions’ programmes and who are from lower income backgrounds.

Fee waivers

Ruskin College offers fee discounts of £3,000 each to up to 16 first year students whose household income is under £25,000, with priority given to those who have disabilities, who have been in care and/or who are from certain Black and minority ethnic groups.

The Royal Academy of Music awards a £3,000 fee waiver for each year of study to students whose household income is below £25,000, and a £2,000 fee waiver for each year of study to students whose household income is between £25,001 and £33,500.

In-kind support

Sparsholt College’s Sparsholt College Bursary, available to students with household incomes of less than £25,000 but who don’t receive a National Scholarship Programme award, includes £500 towards accommodation and/or transport.

Liverpool John Moores University offers free accommodation as part of its support for students who are from low-income households and vulnerable in other ways such as being estranged from their families.

Back to top