Understanding needs for information on postgraduate courses

Work has just begun to help support higher education providers in meeting the needs of postgraduate taught students, and research into the way prospective students make decisions with the information currently available. 

Understanding needs for information on postgraduate courses

The taught postgraduate market is of great importance to UK HE and has grown rapidly, with postgraduate taught (PGT) students now constituting a fifth of all UK HE students. 60% of PGT students are from outside the UK, bringing invaluable education export’ income and wider benefits to HE and the UK. However, the information provided to those considering PGT study is fragmented and far from systematic, and there is no centralised application system. Those shortcomings were recognised in the HE White Paper, so HEFCE is seeking to understand better and help HE providers meet the information needs of prospective PGT students, to help them make informed choices.

Dr Robin Mellors-Bourne, Research Director at CRAC said: 

UKCGE is involved in the project in an advisory role and potentially assisting with dissemination. Should UKCGE members feel that their institution provides information about PGT study in particularly innovative, effective or interesting ways, the project team would like to hear from you.’

CRAC (the Careers Research & Advisory Centre), supported by the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby and consultant Jane Penrose, has commenced a programme of work for HEFCE to:

  • Develop best practice and recommendations for universities and HE providers on how to meet the information needs of prospective PGT students, based on better understanding of their information needs and how information could be optimally provided (e.g. improving the range and clarity of information available on their websites and enhancing communication opportunities);
  • Create a toolkit’ of advice and guidance for prospective PGT students to help them find, understand and use the information and opportunities available. This will be tailored to the range of different types of prospective PGT student, helping to inform the questions they need to ask during their decision-making;
  • Conduct desk research to understand better the decision-making process by which prospective PGT students choose courses, and how this is served by existing provision of information;
  • Conduct new primary research to understand the particular information needs of prospective PGT students currently outside’ the HE system (i.e. potential mature’ students and/​or those who have been outside HE for 3+ years). Recent research has found that different groups of prospective applicants have differing information needs, and that it is currently easier for those already in the HE system to access the information they need. This may contribute to trends showing that different groups do not transition proportionally into PGT study, which potentially narrows participation. 

Project outputs will include case studies of good information provision, recommendations for key audiences, a student toolkit for use by HE providers and others, and a report containing the research findings. The research will be undertaken during the period August to November 2013. 

for more information visit: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/whatwedo/crosscutting/pg/

to contact the project team: robin.mellors-bourne@crac.org.uk