Centre Forum published their report on postgraduate funding and access today, which has already received huge media coverage in the papers and is becomming a hot topic for education buffs on twitter and facebook.
NUS contributed two chapters to the report and, alongside Centre Forum, criticised the current funding model for postgraduate study and again called for a govenment-backed student loan scheme for masters level qualifications.
Centre Forum opened the report by describing postgraduate funding as an 'exclusive golf club', identifying the damage to social mobility caused by a lack of access to finance. Like NUS, Centre Forum claim that the current system of paying fees upfront, coupled with a severely limited supply of funding, is cutting off access to postgradaute study to a large proportion of potential students.
Rachel Wenstone, NUS Vice President Higher Education, stated on the launch of the report that students 'increasingly have to be extremely rich, extremely lucky, or take an extreme gamble, taking on dangerous levels of debt, to take a master's in this country'.
The report strongly criticises the current Professional Career Development Loans (PCDLs) as an option, calling for the scheme to be scrapped, climing that they are too hard to obtain and the interest and repayments hugely unfavourable.
NUS have been calling for a three-tier loan system, which was proposed last November in their publication of Steps towards a fairer system of postgraduate taught funding in England. Like Centre Forum, NUS propose a government-backed scheme of income-contingent loans to provide students with finance to pay for their fees and contribute towards maintenance. The Centre Forum proposals are for a holistic loan system, whilst NUS recommend bringing in professional bodies and employers to encourage access to the professions for unrepresented groups and better part-time career development options.
There were several other contributions to the report, including ways of providing better access to PGR courses, put forward by the British Academy and Russell Group.
The report also made a convincing case on the positive contribution that postgraduates make to the economy and wider society. The economic argument is presented by Dr. Joanne Lindley of the University of Surrey and Prof. Stephen Machin of LSE. They argue that increasing access to postgraduate study can stimulate growth and lower inequality.
Goverment has already welcomed the report, but it is important that pressure is put on them to take action. NUS are continuing their "Postgraduate Champions" campaign, which aims to get MPs and VCs to agree to take forward plans to improve postgraduate funding. There have already been a number of signaturies from around the country. NUS hope that more will sign after reading the convincing case in this report.
To take part in the Postgraduate Champions campaign, visit our facebook page, or download the materials from the website.