Following the money: paying out for AAB

“Universities cut fees for top students”

According to The Sunday Times that is. However, the headline doesn quite match the story which is a bit more complicated than that. The BBC presents it a little differently as “Universities to offer A grade students cash”.

All of this seems to be sparked by comments from Steve Smith as he hands over the Presidency of UUK but presumably the details are buried in institutions’ access agreements. The Sunday Times notes:

Kent and Essex universities are among the first to offer special deals. They will give £2,000 scholarships to any recruit for 2012 who gains three As in their A-levels, regardless of their family income.

Kent’s scholarship will be available for every year of the degree course, although the Essex version is a one-off for the first year.

Goldsmiths College will waive its £9,000 annual fees for the brightest 10 students it admits from its south London borough.

Essex and Goldsmiths are both members of the 1994 Group of research-based universities, conventionally seen as an elite grouping. At Essex, however, only 8% of 2009 entrants gained at least two As and a B, while at Goldsmiths the figure was 16%. At Durham, by contrast, another 1994 Group member, the figure was 85%.

Other institutions that have already decided on new deals for 2012 include De Montfort University in Leicester, which will give £1,000 a year to any student with AAB or above.

West London is offering 45 scholarships to students who score at least AA B at A-level, paying 50% of first-year tuition fees, which will average £7,498. South Bank in London will waive its £8,450-a-year fees for up to 85 highly qualified students.

It is possible to envisage this turning into a crazed bidding war with AAB students being offered ever more lucrative details to sign up with one university or another (and is this what was really envisaged in the White Paper?). More likely though is that most students will continue to focus on the courses and institutions which most closely meet their needs. Some may chase the money but most surely will base their decisions on other criteria. Or perhaps we are entering the mercenary period for university admissions?

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