NatWest Group announces new strategic partnership to bolster support for wider access to higher education for students and highlights potential financial savings for UK universities

NatWest has announced a strategic partnership with the JS Group, that aims to drive social mobility and inclusion in higher education for students, while helping universities achieve greater efficiencies and effectiveness in the way that they make payments to their students. 

  • Universities collectively invest around £1bn annually in students in the form of bursaries, scholarships, hardship funds and other awards, JS Group estimates.
  • Universities could save between 4-12% of their current total financial administration costs by adopting innovative approaches to such payments.
  • This comes at a time when universities are facing particular pressures on their finances.


NatWest will work with JS Group, an innovative partner to universities with a track record of improving the delivery of specialist student funds and of strengthening student engagement, to support more students as they progress within the UK’s higher education system.

It’s the first partnership of its kind for the bank within the education sector and could encourage wider adoption of open banking as a means for universities to be more effective and efficient. Aspire Cash saves time and money in the provision of bursaries and hardship funding to their students.

As part of this new strategic partnership, NatWest relationship managers will be able to reach out to universities and refer them to Aspire Cash, the JS Group payment solution powered by PayitTM by NatWest, to help universities get urgent funds to students in minutes rather than days.  And universities don’t need to be NatWest customers to benefit.

With JS Group estimating that £800m to £1bn is being issued to students each year, and financial pressures on students increasing, the administrative costs for universities processing payments continues to grow. With Aspire Cash, universities can reduce their administrative costs and increase the impact of their student funding.

These payments include a combination of criteria-based awards and application-based payments such as bursaries, digital access funds, hardship funds and endowments, scholarships and other third-party funding schemes.


Barrie Davison, Head of Education Sector at NatWest:

“As a national employer and major graduate and apprentice recruiter, NatWest has a major role to play in enabling social mobility. Our partnership with JS Group had been forged through the strong alignment of our respective organisational values and desire to champion inclusivity."

“Higher education serves as a catalyst for individual and societal advancement. However, access to it remains unequal, with students from disadvantaged backgrounds significantly underrepresented in UK universities."

“By providing targeted financial support, bursaries significantly contribute to reducing barriers to higher education, enabling a diverse range of students to access university education. Bursaries help cultivate a more equitable and inclusive academic environment. This diversity enriches the learning experience for all students, fostering a culture of tolerance and mutual respect."

“In turn this fosters a skilled workforce, driving innovation, productivity, and economic growth. Enabling students from all backgrounds to access university education, helps maximise the potential of the nation’s human capital.”


Peter Gray, CEO, JS Group comments:

“We have been working with more than 30 UK universities to ensure that they are far more effective and efficient in the way that they invest in and operate their specialist student funds. Payments are rapid and  the use of funds bring about an enormous step change in student engagement. Our mission is to help universities to improve the way that they support students who are drawn from non-traditional backgrounds and we see this new strategic partnership with NatWest as a way of reaching out to many more universities who can now benefit from our commitment to positive change in higher education.”


The JS Group works with more than 30 universities across the UK and has a longstanding mission to drive better investment in student engagement and student futures. It has recently won two major open banking awards for its pioneering approach to student finance and been cited in a higher education think tank (HEPI) report as a model for addressing cost-of-living pressures for students.

The Aspire Cash service aims to simplify access to money, by helping students mitigate financial hardship with faster payments directly into their bank account and has been launched with universities across the UK.

Through the Aspire Cash funding platform, JS Group  sets-up accounts for  benefitting students and send them details of how to access their funds. Students can drawdown their funds using the Payit by NatWest API solution when and where they like, to the bank account of their choice, using their smartphone and a secure two-factor verification process.

Payit by NatWest means universities don’t need to collect and verify student bank account details or mobile phone numbers manually. Instead, institutional finance teams simply need to provide details of benefitting students and their award.

This innovative approach offers students access to funds in real time, control of where the funds are sent and in tranches should they wish which helps with budgeting.

Universities are able to offer a better customer experience for students, benefit from cost savings as it reduces the involvement of a finance team, lessens any data security obligations associated with student bank details and provides the university with the opportunity to capture more student data. This insight into students with financial support needs will help inform better targeted allocation of funding.

For more information about Aspire Cash please visit jsgroup.co.uk


For more information please contact Stephanie Melrose in the NatWest press office, stephanie.melrose@natwest.com , 07966 212 576


Notes to editors

More information about the partnership and Aspire Cash

JS Group launched one of the leading platforms, Aspire, in 2006 to support the issuance of student funding in the UK. Now using the Payit API solution, JS Group has developed and launched Aspire Cash, which digitises the delivery of cash bursaries and other awards, so universities and their students can benefit from a better payment experience, reduced administrative costs and improved understanding of how cash awards are used by students.

The service has been rolled out to 30+ UK universities including: University of Sunderland, Ravensbourne University London, University of Central Lancashire, Christ Church Canterbury University, University of Sussex, Cardiff University, Aston University and University of West London – with more universities currently in discussions to make this approach available to their student body.

Using Payit technology, Aspire Cash can provide a university with information on how funds are used, which is a first for the sector. When students draw down their funds, they are invited via a dropdown box to share how they will use the funds. This information can be collated for the university through a reporting dashboard and can highlight patterns of usage within different student cohorts.

Based on the Aspire Cash users to date, JS Group has found that funds are used on rent, transport, food and learning resources and recognises that costs relating to digital access is a growing financial need among students in need of financial support.

JS Group/Aspire Cash has insight to show when funds are used throughout the academic year.


How can Aspire Cash help universities and students?

End to end cost savings are estimated to be between 4 and 12% of current cost, achieved through:

Staffing: No staff required to handle specialist funding payments, freeing up this resource to work on other workstreams.

Data protection: Unlike traditional payment methods, Payit means that there is no requirement to hold, store and destroy student bank details.

Payment instalments: As payments can be issued to a set schedule such as each semester rather than one lump sum, Payit can help mitigate the loss of funds that occurs when students leave before the end of their studies.

More broadly it:

  • Saves time
  • Empowers students
  • Provides powerful insight
  • Has no added cost

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