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New Deal for young people in Cornwall

A ground breaking scheme to provide every Cornish student with financial support towards the costs of living and studying at university has been proposed by Cornwall Council today as part of a series of measures to raise aspirations and encourage more students to go into higher education.

The Council is committed to investing in the future of young people in Cornwall and this scheme, the first of its kind to be set up by a local authority in the UK, follows the launch of the Cornwall Bursary for post 16 students in February.  A further scheme aimed at increasing the number of apprenticeship places across Cornwall will be launched later this year.

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“This really is the start of a New Deal for young people in Cornwall,” said Council Leader Alec Robertson. “Earlier this year we set up the Cornwall Bursary for post 16 students and this new proposal is designed to provide support to young people applying to university.  We will also be providing up to 200 places for young apprenticeships within the Council and working with other employers to offer places.

“Together these schemes will ensure a positive future for all our young people."

The HE scheme proposal has the enthusiastic support of Neil Burden, the Council’s portfolio holder for children’s services. “Although the number of young people from Cornwall going to university has increased in recent years, it is still lower than the national average, particularly with regard to the numbers attending the more selective universities,” he said.  “We want to ensure that increased tuition fees do not put our young people off from going into higher education and encourage more of them to apply to the top universities."

The aim of the proposed scheme is to maintain and increase the number of Cornish students attending university and support the growth of the Cornish economy through developing higher skills, particularly in key local sectors such as low carbon, agriculture and food production, creative industries, marine and maritime, tourism, rural economy and aerospace.

It has been developed in partnership with Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) institutions, FE Colleges, Unlocking Cornish Potential and young people.

Dr Sue Brownlow, Director, Combined Universities in Cornwall, has praised the Council for its commitment to supporting young people. “One of Cornwall’s success stories since the formation of the Combined Universities in Cornwall partnership 12 years ago has been the increase in the number of our young people getting a University education, which we know then can make a big difference to the rest of their lives” she said.  “We still have further to go, particularly to encourage Cornish young people to aim for top A level results and the very best courses.  I really welcome this scheme as a visionary move from the Council which will help support those students facing genuine financial pressure while they are studying."

“CUC partner institutions will be working with the Council to make sure school students are supported with good advice and guidance about which University courses they can aim for, and to help graduates from the bursary scheme gain work placements with businesses to encourage them to build great careers in Cornwall.”

The scheme will provide students with a pre paid card which they can use to pay for an agreed range of goods and services that support the costs of learning and the hidden costs of studying at university. These will include learning resources, such as text books, e books, equipment and stationery, rail and coach travel cards, digital equipment, including lap tops, netbooks, printers, software and accessories, broadband connectivity, student insurance and groceries (excluding cigarettes and alcohol).

Students who meet the residency criteria will be eligible for a one off payment which will be put on the card.  The amount of the payment has still to be confirmed but the current recommendation is for this to be set at £30.  Parents, guardians and other family members, eg grandparents, will also be able to top up the card if they wish.

Students with a household income up to £42,600 can also apply for additional financial support from two further strands of funding.  Both these areas of funding are discretionary and will be subject to a number of specific criteria, which includes the type of course to be studied (there will be a strong focus on economic priority subjects) and place of study, with funding specifically targeted towards students applying for the more selective universities and courses.

The two additional discretionary strands are:

Widening Participation - open to any student attending a non Sutton Trust 30 institution who meets the eligibility criteria.  Eligible students will be able to apply for up to £1,200 per student living away from home (£900 per student living at home) over three years.  Raising Aspiration - open to any student attending a Sutton Trust 30 institution who meets the eligibility criteria.  Eligible students will be able to apply for £3,000 over three years.

The Council is also working closely with Unlocking Cornish Potential to ensure that students have access to a range of employability and enterprise skills in addition to work placements as part of the offer.

'University presents a fantastic opportunity for young people but once they’ve got their degree, there is no firm guarantee of a job” said Allyson Glover, Programme Director for Unlocking Cornish Potential.  “Students need to research carefully the potential career avenues they could take and make the most of every opportunity to gain work experience – throughout their studies and during term breaks.

“UCP are thrilled to be working alongside the Council on this scheme.  We’re able to offer undergraduates support and advice, to help them to clarify their career goals as well as introducing the brand new 'Grad Cornwall' website which really showcases some of the best graduate opportunities in Cornwall.'

Joe Vinson, President Cornwall College Students’ Union and a member of the NUS Society and Citizenship Committee, said “Cornwall Council is taking innovative steps to ensure that aspirational Cornish students are well supported whilst in Higher Education.

“The national support offered by the government is simply inadequate, and it’s great news that Cornwall Council not only recognises this, but has also taken action.”

If approved by Members, the scheme will be introduced in 20014/2015 and is expected to support up to 4,000 students per year. Whilst the majority of students attending HE are under 25, support will also be extended to mature students.

The Council has identified £1m from existing resources to support the scheme in the first year, rising to £3m in 2016 / 2017.  Officers are also working to identify additional sources of funding to support this scheme moving forward and approaches for long term sustainability.

The proposed scheme will be discussed by members of the Council’s Children, Education and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 13 July.  Their views will then be reported to the Council’s Cabinet which will make the final decision.

The Council is also discussing potential partnership arrangements with key universities, including Exeter, Bristol, Cardiff, Plymouth and Falmouth.

These include looking at ways in which the organisations can work together to further improve the accessibility of university to young people from Cornwall.

Story posted 05 July 2012

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