Birkbeck welcomes OFFA approval of its 2018-19 access agreement

The access agreement sets out how the College will support students in financial need and reflects the College’s mission to make higher education open to everyone. Under the 2018-19 agreement, financial support for new students will be reformed and distributed in a more targeted way, so that it is focused on the students who are most in need. Programmes to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who successfully complete their courses will receive greater funding. 

Birkbeck today welcomes OFFA’s approval of its 2018-19 access agreement. The access agreement sets out how the College will support students in financial need and reflects the College’s mission to make higher education open to everyone.

Under the 2018-19 agreement, financial support for new students will be reformed. Financial support will be distributed in a more targeted way, so that it is focused on the students who are most in need, and students in greatest financial need will receive more generous awards than under the current system. 

Compared to the existing cash bursary awards scheme the College expects to make fewer awards, but that each award will be to a student who has clearly demonstrated their need. The changes are implemented in the context of the introduction of maintenance loans for part-time students, which will also be introduced in 2018-19 for the first time.

The agreement also sets out the College’s plans to direct part of the allocated funding towards student success activity, with the overall goal of increasing the number of students who successfully complete their courses. The changes are based on research findings that show that financial support has had limited impact on students’ course choice or their successful completion rates. The College will evaluate the impact of the changes on access and success rates in order to ensure that resources are spent as effectively as possible on creating an excellent experience for all Birkbeck students, from when they first start thinking about higher education to when they graduate.

The access agreement also sets out how Birkbeck will expand the successful work being done to enable mature students to access higher education, and how our employability and career support can enable students to succeed in their careers. The importance of the College’s work with mature students was recently recognised by Professor Les Ebdon, the Director of OFFA, when he visited the College to meet with the Widening Access Team and students who have benefited from their information and advice workshops. This year the College has seen increased demand for its model of evening teaching, combined with support for students who wish to pursue employment opportunities, internships or volunteering during the day, and applications to full-time undergraduate degrees have increased by 21% since 2016.

Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck, said: “This year’s access agreement looks at all areas of the student journey – encouraging those from disadvantaged backgrounds to believe that higher education can be for them and understanding the practicalities of financing university study and combining it with other life commitments; making sure the support is in place to help them enjoy and succeed in their studies once they are here; and also making sure that they graduate equipped for the demands of today’s workforce and can go on to use their Birkbeck education in successful and fulfilling careers.”

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