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Handouts not hand-ups

New loans for postgraduate students will not necessarily promote social mobility, says Paul Wakeling.

Loans of up to £10,000 for postgraduate masters study, announced in the autumn statement on 4 December, were widely expected, but still surprising. With a general election looming and with further cuts to public spending to come, stumping up £1.5 billion for something that is hardly a doorstep issue can scarcely be characterised as a cynical political ploy.

The near-delight of initial reactions to the announcement reflects a wider view that “something must be done” about funding for home students on taught masters degrees. That view has been reinforced by a succession of reports—including from the National Union of Students, Higher Education Commission and Universities UK—on the issue over the past couple of years, combined with a downturn in UK-domiciled registrations and a commonly expressed worry that the 2015 undergraduate cohort, laden with substantially higher debt than their forebears, will shun postgraduate qualifications in favour of reducing their financial liabilities.

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