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The University and LUSU have announced that Lancaster students on the National Scholarship Programme (NSP) will be entitled to a £2,000 cash bursary, replacing the old system of £1,000 bursary, £1,000 waiver of accommodation costs and £1,000 fee waiver. The announcement follows the government’s cut to the NSP as part of the June 2013 spending review and changes at the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) governmental department. The changes will come into effect in the 2014/2015 academic year.
The changes to Lancaster’s use of the NSP funding are believed to have been proposed by the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Atherton, but are widely supported by several University bodies, as well as LUSU. While the government cut the amount of money given to each student as part of the NSP, the cuts also allowed for a more flexible use of the money, allowing Atherton to propose such a change.
In a statement to SCAN, the University said that “these changes were imposed on all universities as a result of a change by BIS to the NSP. We made sure we still give the most we can under the new arrangements, and wanted to change the scheme to give students ‘cash in pocket’ as this is what… students have been saying locally and nationally they want.”
The National Scholarship Programme forms part of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) strategy of Widening Participation, which aims to help students from low-income backgrounds as they enter higher education, something the University and LUSU both support.
President Joel Pullan told SCAN that he believed the change to a £2,000 cash bursary would help the University and the Union fulfil the Widening Participation aims more adequately. “Now that the money has been cut, we get to decide where the money should go… We’ve decided that money should go directly into students’ pockets, because the whole point of Widening Participation funding is to make sure students get through university,” Pullan said. “I don’t think four grand, six grand less debt at the end of their time at university is going to help them [students] get through university at all.”
Pullan said that while more funding to help those students on lower incomes would be welcomed, he is happy with the change for the 201420/15 academic year. “Obviously it would be nice if the University filled the gap left by [the decreased government] funding,” Pullan told SCAN. “I don’t think that’s going to happen but I think it’s good that [the University] are thinking about how best to spend the money they’ve got, and I think they’ve gone with the best option in terms of helping students.”
The government announced its cut to the NSP as part of its spending review in June 2013. The main change the government made was a decrease in the minimum award per student for 2014/2015 entrants, which is to reduce from £3,000 to £2,000, while also removing the amount of funding which could be awarded as cash. The Government also announced that the NSP will stop as an undergraduate programme from the 2015/2016 academic year and will instead be modified to support postgraduate students.
Currently, each student eligible for the NSP receives an award of at least £3,000, and no more than £1,000 of the overall award is provided as a cash bursary.