Public school alumni in line for bursaries after fee-fixing inquiry

Up to 40,000 former pupils from some of the country's top public schools will be eligible for grants from a new £3m educational charity launched last week.

Ex-students from schools such Harrow, Charterhouse and Rugby will be able to apply for bursaries of up to £1,500 from the Schools Competition Act Settlement Trust towards higher or further education.

The charity was set up as part the agreement reached after the Office of Fair Trading's investigation into fee-fixing by 50 independent schools between 2001 and 2004. The schools concerned agreed to make payments totalling £3m to the trust to benefit pupils who attended the schools during that period.

The trust, which counts among its trustees Ian McCulloch, a solicitor with law firm Bircham Dyson Bell and Eeva Leinonen, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, will award 250 bursaries of up to £1,500 to students studying at "a recognised educational institution in the UK or abroad" and 200 project grants to cover travel or equipment costs.

The trust has faced criticism. The Independent Schools Council said that the money should have gone to disadvantaged children.

But a spokesman for the Charity Commission said that the trust was eligible for charitable status because its beneficiary group comprised ex-pupils of schools that were already charities.

"The charity is established for educational purposes, not for the relief of need," he said. "The beneficiary class is all former pupils who attended the schools affected by the anti-competitive information-sharing. While individuals who may have been disadvantaged as a result of the fee-fixing may also benefit from this charity, the purpose of the charity is not to compensate those individuals, but to advance education."

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