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Deserving poor? Are higher education bursaries going to the right students?


  • Gill Wyness

    () (UCL Institute of Education and Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics)


After the abolition of student maintenance grants in 2016, higher education bursaries will be the major source of non-repayable aid for poor students in England. But are bursaries going to the students most likely to benefit from them – the bright poor – or are they simply subsidising low ability students? Using data collected from 22 universities, I show that, as a direct consequence of the decentralized nature of the bursary system, there are vast inequalities in aid receipt among poor students. Nevertheless, I find that the brightest, poorest students tend to receive the most bursary aid, suggesting the system is working efficiently. My analysis also shows that the students most likely to drop out or perform poorly in their degrees are those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with weak A levels. This suggests that these students could gain more from bursary aid if it was coupled with academic support.

Suggested Citation

  • Gill Wyness, 2015. "Deserving poor? Are higher education bursaries going to the right students?," DoQSS Working Papers 15-09, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1509

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    Widening Participation; Higher Education Funding Policies; Higher Education Bursaries; Decentralisation;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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