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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 July, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
University supports home-grown talent
Nottingham University
Nottingham wants to widen access to higher education
Nottingham University is the latest establishment to offer support to students from less privileged backgrounds.

The university - recently criticised for taking up a sponsorship deal from British American Tobacco - is offering scholarships of 1,000 a year to undergraduates from the local area who are the first in their family to go to university.


We are not lowering standards - we are using more sophisticated methods of identifying able students

Dr Penelope Griffin
The university is also offering lower grades to applicants from local state schools and colleges.

The aim is to encourage those Nottinghamshire-based students, who may be put off going to university for fear of accruing debts, to think again.

Warwick University has been running a similar scheme since last year and last week Oxford University announced a bursary scheme for students from poorer backgrounds worth up to 2,000 over three years.

With student grants now gone, tuition fees here to stay (for the foreseeable future at least) and a government drive to increase student numbers, it is likely many other institutions will follow suit.

Local emphasis

In order to qualify for Nottingham's "first-in-the-family" scheme, students must be just that, they must attend a local state school and must be eligible to have their tuition fees paid in full by their education authority.

The university has been publicising the scheme by visiting local schools.

The grants will be available for those taking up their studies this coming autumn.

The "flexible admissions" measure applies to all students from local state schools and colleges.

It could see these prospective students given slightly lower A-level grade offers, as course leaders consider personal references and evidence of supporting achievements when awarding places.

Standards

Nottingham's access and regional partnerships co-ordinator, Dr Penelope Griffin, said there was a distinction between lowering grades slightly and lowering standards.

"We are not lowering standards - we are using more sophisticated methods of identifying able students," Dr Griffin said.

"A-level grades can be very narrow and are heavily influenced by the school a student attends."

The university was heavily over-subscribed, she stressed, with up to 12 applicants for every place.

Warwick precedent

A spokesman for Warwick University said: "I'm glad to see everyone else is rushing to compete."

The scholarships - funded by Warwick Graduates' Association - offer up to 2,000 for each year of a three-year undergraduate course to a limited number of bright students whose household "residual" income is below 15,000.

The university awarded 27 scholarships last year and hopes to award 30 this year.

It also has a scheme to assist students from local schools to win places by taking account of specially-set projects as well as their A-level grades.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"A-levels are still the main passport to university"
See also:

26 Jun 01 | Education
29 Jun 01 | Mike Baker
11 May 01 | Education
11 May 01 | Education
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