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NSP Evaluation

The National Scholarship Programme was announced in October 2010 and ran until 2014-15. It was designed to provide an additional financial benefit to students from disadvantaged backgrounds as they entered higher education (HE) in the context of the raising of tuition fees to £9,000 for full time students. CFE and Edge Hill University were commissioned by HEFCE to undertake a longitudinal, formative evaluation of the programme during its set up and three years of operation. The programme as well as the wider policy environment evolved over the course of the four years and the evaluation evolved with it. While maintaining a focus on the NSP, the evaluation broadened to ensure a fuller understanding of the extent to which the cost of HE, accumulated debt and the availability of financial support impact on participation and progression of disadvantaged students was developed. Over the course of the evaluation all participating HE institutions were surveyed on annual basis along with recipients of the NSP award. The first cohort of award recipients was also tracked for the remaining two years of the study. We drew on Youthsight Panels to devise a sample of prospective students and their views were captured through an online survey and a series of follow-up interviews. A cross section of 24 institutions was selected during the first year of the evaluation to act as case studies and staff and students were interviewed. The primary research was supplemented with a review of international literature on student funding and the impact of financial aid and secondary analysis of HEFCE monitoring data. A series of annual reports were produced along with a ministerial briefing to inform the development of the programme as it was rolled out.

The reports are available online:


Lindsey Bowes image

Key project contact

Lindsey Bowes

Lindsey joined CFE Research in 2008 and led the team responsible for HE policy research before becoming research director in 2014. She has particular expertise in widening participation, student financial aid and student decision making, although in her current role she also oversees projects in CFE’s other work strands, the economy and wellbeing.

Over the past 20 years Lindsey has contributed to research that has informed policy and practice at the national level, including the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education and the National Strategy for Access and Students.