The Chancellor George Osborne has said the government will make available a system for students to take student loans to complete a master’s degree. The system, which will allow £10,000 of loans to be taken out, will be made available beginning in the 2016-17 academic year.
Speaking in the Commons during the Autumn Statement, announced 3 December, Osborne said this system would revolutionise access to postgraduate courses.
Osborne added that the current cost of postgraduate courses “deters bright students from poorer backgrounds,” according to a report from the BBC. The loans would be made available for students under the age of 30.
Ahead of the loan programme in the next academic year, £50 million in bursaries will be made available by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to universities for students who wish to undertake a master’s degree. The bursaries would be £10,000 each and would benefit 10,000 students.
A positive step forward
The bursaries, like the loans, will be available only for postgraduate taught master’s programmes. Students who began their undergraduate studies during the 2012-13 academic year and who were paying fees of £9,000 would be eligible for the bursaries, which would be match funded, or matched by funding from the universities.
A HEFCE spokesperson, reached by telephone, confirmed the plans would go ahead, and that the Council would be writing to universities on 15 December with regards to guidance on how the bursaries will be made available, as well as access for students.
Ten thousand bursaries for ten thousand students in 2015 http://t.co/TIqeCZ8Qbu
— HEFCE (@HEFCE) December 4, 2014
In a statement, Megan Dunn, vice president for higher education at the National Union of Students, said the loans were a step in the right direction for access to postgraduate study.
“Creating a government-backed postgraduate loans scheme will make a fundamental difference to the lives and opportunities of students,” Dunn said. “Many postgraduates are currently funding their study through potentially disastrous measures such as credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans.”
A look to the future
In a message on the social networking site Twitter, Dunn said she and NUS president Toni Pearce would be meeting next week with universities minister Greg Clark and Business Secretary Vince Cable to discuss availability of postgraduate loans to mature students. A spokesperson for the NUS, reached by email, confirmed that meeting would go ahead.
Next week @toni_pearce and I are meeting with Greg Clark and Vince Cable and will be talking about the need for PG loans for mature students
— Megan Dunn (@megandunn116) December 3, 2014
Student union officers have regarded the announcement by Osborne as positive. In a telephone interview, Claire Boothman, president of the Newcastle University Students Union, said it was a footstep forward for postgraduate education.
Reaction was also positive on social media.
— Leicester SU (@LeicesterUnion) December 3, 2014
Boothman added that it would be interesting to see a change in trends in interest towards postgraduate degrees.
“It would give more people, particularly from poorer backgrounds, [the ability] to pursue postgraduate education,” Boothman said. “Hopefully we’ll see a mix of people [studying].”
What do you think? Will these new programmes spur you to get a master’s degree? Have your say in the comments section below.