Students miss out on £19m of bursaries and scholarships

Last updated at 20:36 23 January 2008

University student

Universities face paying back up to £19million of funding that should have been distributed to poor students.

At least 12,000 disadvantaged youngsters have missed out on bursaries and scholarships, according to the Office for Fair Access.

The education watchdog has told vice chancellors it expects them to "consider making bursary payments available retrospectively" to students who can prove they were eligible for help in 2006-7.

Universities spent £96million on financial support in that period compared with a target figure of £115million.

The OFA said Cambridge University planned to offer £1.8million in grants to students but ended up handing out only £1.3million. Warwick spent just £784,000 of its £1.4million budget.

Since 2006, universities wishing to raise tuition fees have had to prove they are taking on a more diverse range of students.

Sir Martin Harris, director of the access watchdog, said some applicants did not know about the bursaries and scholarships.

Others had missed out because they did not give details of family income, he said.

David Willetts, Tory universities spokesman, said: "This shows bursaries aren't working. Twelve thousand people are not claiming them because they are so complicated."