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Clearing scholarships: Unis criticised over offering money for places

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Universities have been offering cash rewards to persuade uncertain students to join their courses.

Scholarships of up to £4,500 have been offered to students going through clearing.

But the approach has been criticised for having a negative effect on students' long-term futures.

"There's no point if after a few months you say 'You know what, this isn't me, why did I do this?'" Sinead Tohill, 21, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The universities offering incentives

Despite record numbers of applicants, fewer students were placed on courses as the results were released on Thursday.

Westminster University has been offering up to 40 clearing scholarships worth £4,500 each over three years of study.

Bedfordshire University's clearing offer includes £1,500 bursaries for all UK and EU students - which goes up to £2,400 for those with grades of B,B,C.

Roehampton University has offered scholarships of up to £3,000 for academic excellence and £1,500 per year for sports and e-sports. Although the university points out that the scholarships would be available at other times of the year.

And these are just some of the institutions offering rewards.

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The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

This is a "life-transforming decision" and students should "not be swayed by any short-term perks", says Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of the Office for Students.

Instead, they should "take time, take advice, and think through what the longer term interests are".

A University of Westminster spokesman said its scholarships recognise the "rising cost of living in London as a barrier to many of our brightest students from lower socio-economic backgrounds".

"At Westminster we believe education should be attainable for all, regardless of background and so we have made up to 40 merit-based scholarships available."

Aberystwyth University offers a broad range of scholarships including Entrance Scholarships and the Academic Excellence Scholarships which are awarded to applicants who achieve 3 grade As or A levels equivalent.

A statement from the uni said: "As more and more prospective students apply for university outside the main UCAS timetable, a number of Academic Excellence Scholarships that have been on offer to students throughout the year, have been held back so that high achieving applicants who chose to study at Aberystwyth are not disadvantaged financially in any way.

"Aberystwyth University has for many years guaranteed accommodation for first year students so they have the best possible start to university life."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionClearing takes place when students do not get the results they expected

'I wouldn't recommend jumping into any course'

"It's your career at the end of the day," says Sinead, who will be studying communications and media with Spanish at the University of Liverpool.

She finally got into university at her third attempt - and she avoided clearing - choosing to retake her A-levels instead.

"If the course is relevant to you, then of course it's great that there would be discount on it.

"But I wouldn't recommend jumping into any course because it's still a lot of debt regardless."

image copyrightSinead Tohill
image captionSinead says students should not be guided by incentives

Sinead says she "always wanted to do" media and Spanish.

"Many universities have options for media so when I looked at the courses that didn't have Spanish, I was tempted."

But she says no "incentive" would have made her do media without Spanish.

"This could affect their lives," says Nicola Dandridge from the Office for Students.

"So it's really important they look at the broader qualifications and the sorts of learning they're going to get."

Sinead says you're "better off taking the year out and considering 'Is this course going to lead me to where I want to go, is it going to take me to the career I want?'"

But not everyone says it's a bad thing

Clearing scholarships are seen as important by some in getting people into university.

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Nicola Dandridge does concede that incentives are "completely fine" but only if students are "fully advised and informed and they make the right decision".

"The danger is if it starts influencing them in a way that's not entirely helpful."

Bedfordshire University has not yet responded to Newsbeat's request for comment.

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Related Topics

  • Students
  • Universities

More on this story

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