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Sussex unveils major new scholarship scheme as £9,000 fee proposed

The University of Sussex will charge new home and EU undergraduate students £9,000 a year in fees from 2012, if the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) approves its plans. The decision was made by the University's governing body on Friday 25 March.

At the same time Sussex will launch an innovative First Generation Scholars scheme to support students whose parents haven't been to university, as well as those from low-income families. The scheme is designed to ensure that the University continues to attract and support talented students, irrespective of their personal background.

The scheme, open to hundreds of students every year at Sussex, is innovative in the way that it offers support both before and after university as well as during study. 

It includes: 

  • Free summer schools for students to help them prepare for transfer to university;
  • Direct means-tested financial support to students of at least £1,000 a year while they study at Sussex - plus £2,000 first-year fee waiver or the equivalent in rent reduction (£50 a week) to help students live on campus;
  • A work-study programme to help students earn money while studying;
  • Funded placements to help students gain work experience;
  • Three years' aftercare for students to help them into a graduate career.

 The scheme will be underpinned by a major new expansion of the University's partnership work with schools and colleges to raise the aspirations of students from age 11 onwards.

The University currently attracts 88 per cent of its undergraduate students from state schools and 20 per cent from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds. If the plans are approved, the University would be more than tripling the amount it spends each year on attracting and supporting talented students from a wide range of backgrounds. 

Professor Clare Mackie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), has led the work with staff and students to develop the support package.

She said:  "We want to ensure that talented students can benefit from the education Sussex provides, irrespective of their personal circumstances. 

"We have created an approach to reach out to help pupils from age 11 upwards to raise their aspirations to achieve good GCSEs and go on to university; to prepare and support the students while they are on programme with us; and then help them find good jobs when they graduate."

Professor Mackie was the first in her family to go into higher education and believes talented first generation students should benefit from the scheme. 

"Families with no experience of higher education, as well as those from poorer backgrounds, will be eligible for the scheme since it is precisely these students who might otherwise lack the 'social capital' to make the most of their education skills and experience."

The new Sussex scheme will also benefit schools and businesses in the region, as Sussex students will provide 30,000 hours a year of mentoring to pupils (ten times the amount currently).  The University will also fund hundreds of internships and work placements with local firms since the evidence is that this dramatically improves students' achievement and graduate job prospects.

Council, the University's governing body, decided on the fee and scholarship proposals in its meeting on Friday 25 March. With central government teaching grants already down by 8 per cent before any new fee is introduced, and being cut by 80 per cent in total over the next few years, the University's financial analysis presented to its Council suggested that setting a fee at anything less than £9,000 would actually reduce the total income which the University has to spend on teaching and support for its undergraduate students.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing said: "Students rated us in the top 10 in 2010 in the National Student Survey. We are determined to build on that quality for students coming to Sussex in 2012.

"The University has already invested in a major £100m programme of building works, reviewed its curriculum, and enhanced employment services so that students arriving in 2012 will continue to get real value for the money and time they are committing."

The University of Sussex Students' Union President, Cameron Tait, said:  "Sweeping government cuts have unacceptably passed the financial burden onto individual students, meaning students will leave university with unprecedented levels of debt.

"However, we have worked closely with the University to design a comprehensive support package to enable students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds to come to study at Sussex.

"We hope that this will set the standard amongst UK universities aiming to offset the government's regressive higher education reforms."

 Notes for Editors

  1. Under the new legislation, universities in England can charge up to £9,000 a year for their undergraduate degrees.  Students are provided with loans from government to pay the fees, and then repay the loans as a fixed proportion of their earnings over £21,000, after they leave university and when they are earning over £21,000 a year.
  2. The University is required to notify OFFA of its intention in relation to fees and submission of an access agreement by 31 March 2011.  The University will be submitting its access agreement to OFFA by their 19 April deadline.  All universities are due to be notified simultaneously of the outcomes in relation to their proposed access agreements by 11 July at the latest. 
  3. The fees being set are those in relation to undergraduate students from the UK and the rest of the EU.  Fees for students from outside the EU are not directly affected by the legislation: universities currently set "market rate" fees, as they are not allowed to subsidise overseas students from public funds.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Daniëlle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Tuesday, 5 April 2011