There’s a strong chance many of you will have heard the news about the postgraduate loans late last year. Despite initial fears that the loans might only be available for Post Graduate studying a STEM subject, it turns out that loans of up to £10.000 would be available to many students; essentially for anyone under 30, studying a postgraduate taught – not research – master’s, from 2016.
Many of my undergraduate and postgraduate friends were pleased by the news - NUS applauded the government for the introduction of the scheme, and why wouldn’t they? After all, it lifts many of the financial burdens faced by Post-Grad students and opens up a whole new pathway of education for those otherwise unable to finance it.
As a Masters student myself, with hefty rent bills, tuition fees, food to buy and the Student Loans company tactfully reminding me about my mounting debt, you’d think I’d welcome the news, yet I’m still a little conflicted.
Clearly the proposals will at least partially adhere to some of the massive financial burdens faced by future Post-Gad students - after all, as it stands I currently have to work full time alongside my course just to make ends meet, so you might ask why would I be a bit apprehensive?
I was lucky enough to leave university with slightly over £25K worth of debt, but for current undergraduates this figure can be upwards of 50 thousand pounds. Prospectively, these new graduates with ludicrous amounts of debt would now have the option to further their studies for just an extra 20%.
This new system, although praiseworthy, is still a system which roots its foundations in debt and arguably doesn’t address the problem of access to postgraduate study. What’s needed is a more comprehensive approach and a look at the way postgraduate funding is dealt with as a whole.
Realistically, there’s no winning for those in charge. Don’t offer the loans and limit Post-Grad study to those who can afford it or offer the loans and ensure even more debt for students nationwide.
Details of the operation of the loan scheme are currently sparse, and the cynic in me thinks it might have something to do the general election in May (I still haven’t forgiven Nick Clegg). Although I suppose at least it is a step in the right direction, and I hope that in due course they extend the loans to those over 30.
Overall, this is probably a cause for celebration for those of us trying to improve access to higher education, but there is still more to be done. In an ideal world there would be no need for loans for education; it would be free access for all. But regrettably, this is not an ideal world.
If you have any questions, or want to be involved in Brunel’s Postgraduate working group please contact PostgraduateStudents.Chair@brunel.ac.uk