‘Shocking’ that students don’t get enough info about costs

Commenting on a report issued today by the Office for Students that found students need better information about the real costs of higher education [note 1], Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education and head of the Office for Fair Access, said:

“It is shocking that nearly a quarter of students do not feel that they were informed about the cost of higher education beyond the tuition fee – for example accommodation costs, books and paying for extracurricular activities such as field trips.

“These costs can be very substantial, particularly for those who do not have ‘the bank of mum and dad’ to help out and have to find the extra money themselves. That might be because they are from low income backgrounds, estranged from their families, or mature students for whom it would be inappropriate to ask for parental help.

“This research provides further evidence of the need for universities and colleges to give clear, accurate information, advice and guidance to people considering study so that they know what to expect.

“It also points to the importance of universities and colleges continuing to invest in scholarships, bursaries and discounted services for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, where there is evidence that those schemes are genuinely helping students to enter and stay in higher education.” [note 3]

The report also found that the majority of students support the use of tuition fees to fund access initiatives and bursaries. [note 5]


For more information contact Sophie Mason, Acting Head of Communications, OFFA (press@offa.org.uk, 0117 931 7171)

Notes to editors

  1. The report Value for money: the student perspective (page 4) found that 24 per cent of students do not feel that they were informed about how much everything would cost as a student. The main factors cited are the costs of accommodation, books and paying for extracurricular activities.
  2. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent public body that regulates and promotes fair access to English higher education for people from under-represented groups. For more information see www.offa.org.uk.
  3. Universities and colleges plan to invest a total of £405.5 million this academic year in financial support for disadvantaged students through their OFFA-approved access agreements. See https://www.offa.org.uk/press/quick-facts/ for more information about investment, and note 4 for more information about what access agreements are.
  4. In order to charge higher tuition fees, all English universities and colleges must make plans called “access agreements” which describe how they will promote and sustain fair access, and have them approved by OFFA. These plans will include outreach (e.g. summer schools, mentoring, after-school tuition, links with schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas), supporting students to reach their full potential, e.g. pastoral support or help with employability, and financial support e.g. bursaries. OFFA monitors the implementation of access agreements annually. See https://www.offa.org.uk/glossary/#accessagreements for more information, and https://www.offa.org.uk/glossary/#higherfees for a definition of ‘higher fees’.
  5. The report Value for money: the student perspective (page 14) found that 72 per cent of those eligible for means-tested funding and 60 per cent of those not eligible for means-tested funding agree that their fees should be used for access initiatives.