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Postgraduate loans in England mooted

The 1994 group of small research-led universities has called for state-backed loans to be introduced for full-time postgraduates, writes Alison Goddard.

Some features of the undergraduate loans scheme in England should be extended to postgraduates, according to a report published today by the 1994 group. The report reckons the scheme would cost just £50m a year and contains the laughable assertion that "the low cost of the scheme means that regulation of postgraduate student numbers will be unnecessary–the natural cap on student numbers posed by universities’ own capacity constraints provides a sufficient limitation." This highly unlikely to be true. In article available exclusively to subscribers to HE, we outline how such a system would enable graduates who lacked the wherewithal to pay for their postgraduate education to enroll on higher degrees, but it would also probably introduce caps on postgraduate tuition fee levels and restrictions on the number of postgraduate students that institutions could admit. At present universities tend to charge according to the perceived earning power the postgraduate course bestows: being a whizz at maths will gain you entry to both a master’s degree in finance and in theoretical physics, but Imperial College London charges £28,200 for the former and £6,000 for the latter. The costs of providing the courses are roughly the same, so the future banker subsidises the future academic. 

If the government were to introduce such a scheme, which universities and science minister David Willetts makes clear is unlikely in the introduction to the report, it would follow the Scottish precedent. At the Scottish National Party conference held over the weekend Mike Russell, education minister in the Scottish Parliament, announced that loans would be extended to postgraduates studying certain subjects, as we revealed in an article available only to subscribers to HE.

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