Posted on Fri 22 Feb 2013 at 15:50 by Anna Chowcat
Postgraduate funding is in crisis and it is something that I am passionate about campaiging on. Over the last few weeks I have written an open letter on the issue and gathered signatures from within the University and from other Students' Unions. I am hoping to send the letter to various press sources in order to keep up the pressure on the government and Universities to find a solution to the funding problem.
Here's a copy of the letter:
'Postgraduate education in this country faces unprecedented challenges. A crisis in funding and access is now materialising. Following several years of continuing growth, recent HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) statistics reveal a disturbing downturn with postgraduate enrolments in this vital sector starting to decline. There is now a major question mark over the future of postgraduate education especially with the first ‘9k students’ graduating in 2015. The Higher Education Commission noted that institutions and employers have repeatedly voiced their concerns that demand for postgraduate study would be affected by the increased fees. It is clear that we must urgently find a solution.
The funding currently available to postgraduate taught students is severely limited, especially now that there has been a restriction of Masters level funding from Research Councils. Struggling to meet upfront fees of around £8,000, students who cannot rely on savings or parental contributions are supporting themselves through worrying methods - paying for tuition fees on credit cards or through the use of commercial loans. Professional and Career Development loans are of particular concern given their high interest rates and short repayment timeframes. Students are being priced out of the postgraduate education system.
In a knowledge economy, postgraduate research is the foundation for many key professions from academia to engineering. With Masters degrees considered a condition for continuing onto research in many subjects and an important element of research training, we must redevelop the current funding system. Students leaving university at the age of 21, saddled with thousands of pounds worth of debt, are less likely to incur the costs of a postgraduate degree with little to no external funding available to assist them.
Taught postgraduate study risks becoming a luxury inaccessible to most students. It should instead be seen as the ‘new frontier of widening participation’ by policymakers - or we risk a number of professions turning into elitist domains populated by practitioners from restricted backgrounds. A sustainable funding structure is required and we cannot wait until this time-bomb has gone off.
A new campaign is therefore being organised, exerting pressure on the government as a matter of urgency to address this problem by introducing an appropriate funding system in this country which recognises the distinct needs of both taught and research students.'
If anyone has any questions regarding the campaign please don't hesitate to contact me via this blog or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!