Sussex leads the way with First Generation Scholars Scheme worth £5k+

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has given the thumbs up to an innovative University of Sussex scheme that will benefit a greater than ever number of students from low-income backgrounds.

The First Generation Scholars scheme - which includes funding for every new Sussex student whose family income is less than £42,600 - forms part of a funding package that will see Sussex being allowed to charge fees of £9,000 a year for new home undergraduate students from 2012.

The Scheme goes far beyond the minimum requirements laid down by Government of providing £3k support for 230 students at Sussex: under the University's scheme an estimated 800 students will qualify for a £5k financial support package, plus personal advice and guidance.

The University decided to set the income limit for financial support under its Scheme at the highest possible level following consultation with staff and students.

In total, the University will be doubling its spend on financial support and schools outreach from £2.3m in 2010-11 to £4.6m in 2012-13.

Professor Clare Mackie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), says: "We want to ensure that all students eligible for grant support from Government also receive direct financial support from Sussex. We know from working with our students in designing this scheme that this support can make all the difference to talented, hard-working students from low-income backgrounds. We believed a cut-off at £25,000 for family income, which is the standard national requirement, would be just too low."

The scholarship also goes further than most traditional schemes in offering wide-ranging support before, during and after university. These elements will especially benefit students with little or no family experience of university life. The package 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 each year while they study at Sussex - plus a £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 new Sussex scheme will also benefit schools and businesses in the region. Sussex students will provide 30,000 hours a year of mentoring to school pupils (ten times the amount currently), while the University will support hundreds of internships and work placements with local firms.

The scheme will be underpinned by a major expansion of the University's partnership work with schools and colleges to raise the aspirations of students from age 11 onwards, by doubling its investment in this area.

Outgoing Students' Union President, Cameron Tait, said: "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."

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."

Applicants for 2012 entry will have access to clear and timely information on tuition fees, bursaries and scholarships at Sussex to assist them in submitting their UCAS forms. The web pages on fees and funding for 2012 provide helpful information on tuition fees, the First Generation Scholars scheme and other bursaries and scholarships.

Notes for Editors


Key facts

  • The University currently attracts 88 per cent of its undergraduate students from state schools and 20 per cent from lower-socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • 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.
  • The University's means-testing level for the financial element of its First Generation Scholar scheme (£42,600) is the highest level allowed by OFFA guidance,
  • The University was required to notify OFFA of its intention in relation to fees and submission of an access agreement by 31 March. The University submitted its access agreement to OFFA by their 19 April deadline. All universities were due to be notified simultaneously of the outcomes in relation to their proposed access agreements by 11 July.
  • 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.
  • Council, the University's governing body, decided on the fee and scholarship proposals in its meeting in 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 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 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.

Professor Clare Mackie, architect of the Sussex access agreement, was the first in her family to graduate from higher education and believes talented first generation students should benefit from the scheme. She says: "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.

"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."

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

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Last updated: Monday, 27 February 2012