Government loans for postgrads are welcome, but unis should perform their component

After two years of repeated warnings from organisations as diverse as the British Academy, the National Union of College students, the Property of Lords Science &amp Technologies Committee, the cross-party Higher Education Commission and the liberal thinktank CentreForum, George Osbourne’s announcement these days that the government will intervene to resolve the clear failure in the marketplace for postgraduate finance is extremely welcome.

Prospective postgraduate college students have faced a “credit crisis” with banks incredibly reluctant to offer you loans. Figures obtained underneath the Freedom of Information Act demonstrate that last yr significantly less than half of the 20,000 potential college students who applied for a government-supported job improvement loan received an supply of a loan.

The scheme, currently giving loans at an eye-watering 9.9% APR following completion of a course, is subsidised by the tax payer at a price of close to £12m per 12 months. The consequences of market failure in postgraduate finance have been substantial. With no access to credit, and with postgraduate qualifications getting to be de facto specifications for entry into some of the most aggressive careers, postgraduate review is, in the phrases of a single Russell Group vice-chancellor, getting to be the “next frontier of widening participation”.

The introduction of revenue-contingent pupil loans will go a long way to bringing down the financial barriers to even more examine. But, although it is a wonderful phase forward, it is only a partial remedy. With the typical postgraduate fee this year coming in a £5,680, for many complete-time college students the new loans of up to £10,000 will not be high adequate to pay for each tuition charges and residing costs. There is as a result a risk that the benefits of the new loan scheme will be captured by much more affluent college students, with students unable to access other varieties of support even now unable to participate.

With government and college students now contributing, there is now also a crucial role for universities to play to ensure postgraduate research is really available to everyone suitably experienced, regardless of background or circumstance. There are 3 factors that each and every university need to now be contemplating.

one) Review your scholarships and charge waivers
Universities presently offer you a variety of help to prospective postgraduates, some targeted on the basis of academic merit, some targeted towards their own undergraduate students and alumni, and some targeted on need. The introduction of income-contingent pupil loans now produces area for universities to better target this assistance. All universities need to now evaluation their current provision of scholarships and charge waivers to figure out whether these can be re-targeted in direction of much less affluent students struggling to make up the funding shortfall from other sources of finance.

In specific, given that loans will only be obtainable for those aged below 30 (presumably driven by issues about the RAB charge connected with older college students) universities need to now be seeking to shift assets to assistance for mature college students.

2) Resist urge to boost charges

Institutions have to resist the temptation to take advantage of students’ improved access to credit score by growing tuition costs. This is a phenomenon that has already been observed in the US, exactly where a variety of universities have acted to capture the advantages of fiscal assist and tax relief for themselves, undermining efforts to enhance the affordability of greater training.

3) Provide more versatile postgrad provision
There will still be a massive group of potential students, typically presently established in the workplace but hunting to retrain or modify job, for whom the dangers and fees of complete-time postgraduate research (ie giving up a safe task and losing a yr of wages) will continue to be as well large. We require to make certain that this group of potential college students also have options. A lot of of the college students I interviewed even though researching the Greater Education Commission’s report on postgraduate review in the summer season of 2012 spoke of the difficulty encountered in trying to find institutions giving the program they wanted on a flexible basis.

Universities need to now appear tough at their existing provision and identify how they may well make more of their programs obtainable on a element-time or versatile basis, making it possible for college students to mix operate and research. Universities could learn a whole lot from the method taken by the UCL Institute of Education, which delivers many of its MA programmes via evening seminars, intense educating weeks, and on the web provision.

So these days is a result in for celebration for those of us attempting to improve entry to larger training, but we must not rest on our laurels – there is nevertheless far more to be accomplished.

Joel Mullan is a former policy advisor to the 1994 Group of Universities. He was the lead writer of Postgraduate Education: An Independent Inquiry (Increased Training Commission, 2012) and Growing postgraduate options: proposals for funding (1994 Group, 2013).

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