HUNDREDS of Oxfordshire students are to be offered completely free travel to and from college thanks to a new bursary scheme.

Abingdon & Witney College wants make it easier for the poorest students to come to college and will offer a means-tested bursary which will give a free annual bus pass for those eligible, however much their travel to college costs.

Under the previous scheme, any students whose travel cost more than £125 a term could receive up to £50.

The new bursaries will be available for students with a family income of less than £25,000 or where a household is getting various benefits.

Head of college services Russell Paul said: “We’re tying to widen participation and enable access to all students.

“One of the initial barriers people have is actually getting to college in the first place.”

Mr Paul said he was also keen to hear from people who might not quite fit the criteria – for example with a household income just above the threshold, or those who have a brother or sister already at the college.

He said: “When we talk to people who are considering applying, they are quite shocked at how much transport can cost and it can put people off.

“There are instances where people have to beg and borrow from friends, parents and grandparents just to get the money to come into college – it’s a real barrier.

“There is also a link to ongoing attendance.

“If a student who is struggling had managed to find the cost for one term’s bus pass but can’t afford to renew it for term two and has to pay as they go, their attendance is likely to drop.”

A south Oxfordshire zone annual bus pass on Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel buses, for example, which covers all services in areas including Didcot, Abingdon, Wantage, Wallingford, Wootton, Radley and Garsington, costs £351 for under-18s.

It is anticipated up to 250 people will get free travel as a result of the scheme.

Last year 750 students were involved in the subsidy scheme, receiving up to £50 per term.

  • To find out more, including how to apply, click on the link.