Postgraduate loans welcomed but it may not be enough

UKCGE welcomes PGT loans announced in the Autumn Statement 

Postgraduate loans welcomed but it may not be enough

Today’s Autumn Statement presented proposals to introduce government-backed loans worth up to £10,000. The loans will be available from 2016–17 and the government expects the initiative to benefit 40,000 students. The treasury anticipates the loan scheme will enable around 10,000 more individuals to take advantage of the opportunity to undertake postgraduate study each year.

In his speech, Chancellor George Osborne said the proposal would revolutionise” access to postgraduate education as the cost of postgraduate courses deters bright students from poorer backgrounds”.

Professor Mick Fuller, UKCGE Chair and Professor Rosemary Deem, UKCGE Chair Elect said;

The announcement by the Chancellor today in the Autumn Statement that a new PGT loan scheme is intended to be introduced in England for the academic year 2016–17 is welcome news indeed. Apart from a brief mention in the White Paper, provision for Masters students has been largely overlooked by Government and with falling direct support from HEFCE, Universities have been drawn into an inevitable upwards creep of fees for Masters courses in order to try to maintain financial stability for Masters provision. As a consequence of this and the accumulation of debt (loan) from Home and EU undergraduate study the recruitment of UK domiciled students to Masters programmes has seen a sharp decline and is down more than 10% since 2011.”

The Government also revealed that following on from the £25 Million postgraduate support scheme (PSS) in 2014–15, the next academic year (2015–16) will see HEFCE allocate £50 Million to higher education institutions (HEIs) to offer bursaries on a match-funded basis. The bursaries will be £10,000 and will benefit 10,000 students. The bursary scheme will firstly draw on the findings from the PSS scheme enabling HEI’s to be aligned with postgraduate admission plans for 2015–16, and secondly provide a bridge to 2016–17 income contingent postgraduate loans.

Professor Fuller and Professor Deem also said;

In the interim, HEFCE have been funding a number of initiatives across the country via the Postgraduate Support Scheme to try to gather evidence for a way forward for PGT financing. Arising out of some of these studies and a plethora of independent reports from HEC, UUK, NUS and others has been a persistent call for a credible and affordable PGT Loan system. It is good to hear that the Government is prepared to commit new money to this initiative, albeit after the election.”

The 2016–17 postgraduate loans will be offered in any master’s subject, but only to students resident in England studying in the UK and EU studying at universities in England and under the age of 30. The loans will be available to part-time and full-time students but will be repaid concurrently with undergraduate loans.

UKCGE understands that there will be a consultation ahead of the final loan details, but they could be charged at a higher rate than undergraduate loans, while remaining below commercial rates.

Professor Fuller and Professor Deem concluded;

Whilst the detail has yet to be sorted out, and this will be through consultation with the sector, the promise of a PGT loan scheme offers hope to current undergraduates that an affordable way to study for a Masters course will be available to them at the end of their studies. It may not be enough, however, to allay the fears of the debt-averse” student already carrying a £50K debt from their first degree.”

UKCGE will be discussing the loan scheme, bursary bridge and other funding initiatives (PGT and PGR) at its Postgraduate Funding’ workshop on the 21st of January which takes place at the University of Sheffield. The workshop is being delivered by the council’s Postgraduate Funding Working Group which is made up of colleagues from membership institutions and representatives from key funding bodies in the UK Higher Education Sector. 


2014 Autumn Statement (Postgraduate Funding is on Page 44/45)