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24th October 2016

Bursaries improve students’ chances of getting a better degree

Recent research shows that students who receive bursaries perform better in their degrees than if they had not received the financial aid

A study carried out in nine English universities has shown that for each £1,000 of financial aid awarded, the chances of getting a good degree increases by 3.7 percentage points.

Researchers at the University College London tested data of those in receipt of financial aid against test scores and the number of students completing their course. Data for 35,879 EU and UK students were included in the sample who were receiving bursaries from £50 up to £3,200.

The conclusion of the study is that “results show that students receiving bursary aid persist further and achieve better outcomes than they would have done without the subsidy.”

The new results contrast with a similar study from 2014 carried out by England’s Office for Fair Access, which found that neither the size nor the availability of a bursary had a discernible impact on whether a student from a lower socio-economic background would finish a course or not.

Although the results do not show exactly why bursaries have a positive impact, it is suggested that bursaries can assist students with their financial strains such as having a part-time job alongside studying, buying course materials, and upholding a decent living environment.

The Professors behind the study, Gill Wyness and Richard Murphy, note one of their most interesting findings is that “students from richer backgrounds gain less than those from poorer backgrounds.” The estimated impact of larger bursaries on the poorer half of the sample is about six times greater than the cohort as a whole.

The University of Manchester boasts that more than a third of students have access to a cash bursary. Students are identified to be eligible for the bursary judged on their household income, which is provided through the Student Finance Application.

We asked Manchester students how the Manchester Bursary affects them:
Final year Maths Undergraduate Riannan Singh says: “It’s great not having the stress of having to ask my mum for money when I know that would put her under a lot of pressure. I also don’t know where I’d find the time for a part-time job outside of my studying; that would definitely have a negative impact on my grades.”

Politics and Modern History student Muneera Lula says: “The bursary also means I don’t feel like I have to miss out on things like playing sports and getting involved in societies which can sometimes have hidden costs”. She adds, “It also means that when I do work it is to top-up my income rather than to scrape by, the bursary softens my financial worries at Uni. So yes, it makes my life at Uni much easier.”

The study insists that bursary distribution is important in determining the outcome of students success. It advises that institutions should streamline their aid policies to improve efficiency. For example, at high performing universities such as Imperial College (ranked 8th in the World), it would be better to distribute resources across more students, as their students are likely to gain the most.

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