The slashing of teaching funding for postgraduate education needs to be reconsidered, a report has said.
The report, ‘The Postgraduate Crisis’, was published by the 1994 group of universities on 23 February. It says the government’s reform of higher education will create barriers to postgraduate education and have a long-term negative impact on the UK economy.
To prevent such damage, the government must ensure that research-council funding for postgraduate students continues, it says. The government also needs to expand and push for better terms for personal and career development loans, and do more to encourage industry sponsorship of students, it adds.
While the group welcomes plans by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to provide £1,100 in teaching funds for some disciplines in 2012/13, it notes that there are no commitments beyond that year.
The report says that the number of postgraduates studying on programmes receiving government teaching funding is “anticipated to reduce to just 17 per cent”.
It warns that any decline in postgraduate students would make it impossible for UK to maintain or boost its research excellence. It would especially harm subjects like arts and humanities and disciplines relating to health work and education, since salaries would not match the expectations of postgraduate students.
It also warns of damage to the economy as postgraduates drive innovation and in transfer research skills to industry.
In addition, it warns that students from poorer backgrounds would be the least likely to continue on to postgraduate study.
“High-level skills are absolutely essential to the country’s long term economic prospects but we’re in real danger of choking off the pipeline of future postgraduate talent,” said Michael Farthing, chairman of the group.
”The Government’s failure to address postgraduate funding has been a real error of judgement and we need to see some immediate action to avoid disaster.
“It’s absolutely crucial that something is done and that it is done quickly. It could take years to re-establish postgraduate courses wiped out by the falling demand lack of student funding will bring. We have to act now to avoid such a meltdown,” he said.