£25 million fund to stimulate postgraduate study

HEFCE is inviting universities and colleges to bid for a share of a £25 million fund, to test different ways of stimulating postgraduate education. 

£25 million fund to stimulate postgraduate study

Following a comprehensive review of postgraduate education, initiated in response to the recent reforms of higher education fees and funding, at the UKCGE annual conference HEFCE has published:

In light of this evidence, HEFCE is making £25 million available to supply grants of between £500,000 and £3 million to universities and colleges, to fund pilot projects which will stimulate students’ progression into taught postgraduate education.

Postgraduate education has received a great deal of attention and comment during the last year. This has highlighted the international reputation of the postgraduate sector in England and its vital contribution to our economy and society, but it has also raised concerns about sustainability and access.

The reports HEFCE have published show that the postgraduate sector is highly diverse and successful, with a global reputation, and that postgraduates gain considerable benefits by studying, from their experience as students to their employability and earnings. There is, however, uncertainty about whether the growth in postgraduate study during the last decade can be sustained, and whether students from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to benefit from postgraduate study. The two reports and the funding are part of a wider programme of work including research into the information needs of postgraduates.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:

Postgraduate study is good for students, good for universities, and good for the economy. We want talented graduates from all backgrounds to feel inspired and able to continue their education.By removing financial barriers for more masters courses, this potential £125 million investment will provide a big boost to our internationally renowned postgraduate sector.’

The £25 million fund will encourage more graduates to progress to taught postgraduate courses. This will enable universities and colleges to:

  • test different ways of financing postgraduate study
  • attract types of student who are under-represented in postgraduate study 
  • work with industry and professional bodies to enhance the contribution postgraduate education makes to our economy and society.

The findings from these projects will help Government, HEFCE and other funders, universities and colleges, employers and sponsors to develop strategies to ensure the continued success of postgraduate education from 2015, when the first undergraduate students who have paid higher fees will enter postgraduate study.

Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:

Postgraduate education in England has thrived in a climate of limited regulation and shared contributions from individuals, government and business. We believe that the approach we are announcing today will help universities and colleges to develop partnerships that fit their particular strengths and interests and those of their students and, most importantly, help to stimulate demand for postgraduate courses’.

Professor Mick Fuller Chair, of the UK Council for Graduate Education, said:

This is an exciting opportunity offered by HEFCE for HEI’s to explore new ways of addressing the issues of postgraduate taught recruitment and the delivery of higher level skills sets to graduates. The fund offers opportunities for engagement with business, industry and public sector employers and will pilot innovative ideas for sustaining and growing the postgraduate taught offer in many institutions. It is warmly welcomed and I am sure will be keenly contested and lead to future models that can be rolled out across the sector.’


  1. Details of the postgraduate fund, including how to apply, are available on the HEFCE website at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2013/cl182013/#d.en.82616
  2. HEFCE provides around £120 million per years for taught postgraduates and £1,600 million for research postgraduates.
  3. The January 2012 grant letter to HEFCE from BIS made specific requests with regard to postgraduate provision, as follows:

We are pleased that the Council is taking the lead on gathering evidence to improve our understanding of the purpose and characteristics of, and outcomes from, postgraduate study, with the intention of reviewing postgraduate participation following the changes to undergraduate funding. We also note the progress the Council is making, with its HE Public Information Steering Group, towards identifying what further information might usefully be provided to prospective postgraduate students to help them make informed choices about what and where to study. Until the findings from this work become clear […] the Council should in any case take steps as far as possible to support postgraduate provision.’