Call for 'bounty fund' for poor students

Image caption,
Universities have targets for student participation

Universities in England should be "rewarded" with extra cash for taking students from poorer families, a charity has said.

And the government should consider giving poorer students a "free" first year at university.

The recommendations come from the Sutton Trust, which campaigns to increase access to higher education for low-income groups.

Public hearings for a review into university funding resume on Thursday.

The review, led by Lord Browne, is looking at how England pays for its universities and to what degree students contribute to the system.

The results are due to be published in the autumn.

'Risks and uncertainty'

In its second submission to the review, the Sutton Trust calls for the creation of a bounty fund of "tens of millions of pounds a year" to reward universities "that make special efforts to recruit students from poorer homes".

The money should be top-sliced from the teaching grant awarded by the body which distributes funds to England's universities, Hefce, the trust argues.

It suggests its idea of a "free first year" should be piloted.

"The free first year would alleviate some of the risk and uncertainty that deter non-privileged students from applying to certain courses and institutions," says its report to the Brown review.

At the moment, universities in England are set targets, known as benchmarks, for the proportion of undergraduates they take from less well-off homes.

A report on Wednesday from the the agency in charge of widening access to higher education said that youngsters from wealthy homes were seven times more likely to go to England's top universities than those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The agency, the Office for Fair Access (Offa) said there had been no significant change since the mid-1990s.

When the public sessions of the Browne review re-open in Bristol on Thursday, a panel will hear opinions from various groups, including Universities UK, the National Union of Students and the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Another day of hearings on Friday, in Leicester, will be the final one.

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