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To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of students who will receive assistance from the proposed National Scholarship Programme in each of the next four years; and what criteria he expects to apply to assess eligibility for the fund.
The National Scholarship Programme (NSP) will form part of a coherent package of help targeted on bright potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds. All universities that want to charge a higher graduate contribution than the £6,000 threshold will be obliged to participate in the NSP.
Details of the National Scholarship Programme are still being finalised. Criteria for the NSP are currently being developed through advice from an expert panel, which includes the National Union of Students, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK, Sutton Trust and others. My right hon. Friend Simon Hughes, the Government's Advocate for Access to Higher Education, has been invited to join the group.
We want a wide range of people to have the opportunity to benefit from the programme. Likely groups to be supported include disabled students, part-time students, mature-aged students, those who have been eligible for the pupil premium at school, or have received free school meals or whose family income means that they will be eligible to receive student maintenance grants.
Government investment in the programme will reach £150 million a year by 2014/15. Options could include a first free year for disadvantaged students who were on free school meals or a foundation year to attract young talented people into the professions. Such measures could potentially help around 18,000 students in 2014/15. The number of students who can benefit from the new programme will depend on the final design which is currently being developed with advice from the expert panel.