Post-graduate study has been overlooked in fee rise

We hear about student finance enough, particularly after Lord Browne’s charming review. As a result, student apathy is running rife.

However, it is short-sighted to assume that increasing tuition fees are irrelevant to us, already mired deep in our undergraduate degrees which seem endless enough. But even today some consider an undergrad degree to be too prolific to have value, so many more of us are looking to post-graduate degrees and qualifications.

The cost of post-graduate study has been overlooked in the furore over undergraduate fee rises, and it simply means our opportunities are being limited further. Cost has always been an issue in our educational system, but it is reaching unacceptable levels of dominance. The government are withdrawing or limiting the financial support they give us, yet expecting the same results.

My psychology housemate has recently been trying to figure out how she could fund a doctorate: but how is this possible without government help? Is taking a year out to work simply to get some money an acceptable use of her time? And going to the ‘Bank of Daddy’ is usually not an option; for all its allegedly ‘rah’ pretensions, York does not boast a large number of students who have parents that can casually pay for anything their offspring desire: yachts, a wardrobe of Jack Wills, or post-graduate degrees.

it’s short-sighted to assume that increasing tuition fees are irrelevant to us

I’m not saying that there are no structures in place at all, but even before the Browne Review promised to change the higher education system, financial support for post-graduates was limited. In the post-Browne world of sky-high fees and potentially more discipline-selective support mechanisms – such as support for education or social work students – means that postgrads will be left out in the cold. And without postgraduate study, there would be a distinct lack of teachers, accountants and journalists, to name a few.

The worst thing about the way the education system is changing is that financial worth is the yardstick by which our choices are being judged. An English degree is not valued by the ideas on the paper, the analysis of the novel, the bright, original idea that underpins your essay. It is weighed and measured according to what it cost, and post graduate study will suffer even further from this chronic case of ‘fiscal fever’.

Acquisition of skills, ideas and further training will be weighed against the heavy loans we all already bear from our undergrad days. Your future does not have a financial entry requirement. Our aspirations should not be compromised by a lack of financial support. So thank you Lord Browne, for putting a price tag on our ambition.

10 comments

  1. 8 Feb ’11 at 2:52 pm

    George Bouras

    Not only is most postgraduate study severely under-funded, but be sure to expect tuition fees for Masters to rise at the same rate as those of undergraduate degrees when the cap is lifted in 2012!

    The lack of any sort of loan for Masters is an absolute joke – even a system where a student had to pay back the money regardless of future earnings (harsher than the the way loans for undergraduate degrees are repaid, once you’re earning £15,000) would at least be a start…

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  2. I took out a Career Development Loan and have found the CO-OP to be very sympathetic to any delays in repayment etc. Worth a look. Though they are by no means perfect

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  3. The Browne review actually suggested that greater access to student finance be made available to post-grads studying certain degrees related to professions (e.g., medicine, arhcitecture). This way even if fees go up (!) access to selected second degrees is still available for those who can stomach the debt.

    Whether the government will do this is still yet to be seen and the latest I’ve hears is that they won’t decide this detail til early 2012 ready for academic yr 2012/13. However, if we’re lucky they might decide in the policy update due for this March.

    ps, CDL – Interesting information about Coop

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  4. Funding at PG level is a real barrier. While we may all balk at paying £1k (in my day), £3k, or £9k, the reality is we generally do not have to find the cash up-front and truth be told, hardly notice the payments when they are taken.

    With graduate study however the same cannot be said. Here at York (and many other places) a student not only has to pay for the course itself, but also demonstrate that they have sufficient resources to cover the predicted £7K.p.a living expenses. In essence, doing a masters is generally the preserve of the rich(ish), or represents a serious gamble. I took out a CDL and also worked pretty much full-time. Even then I do not think it would have been manageable without the fee-waiver I received. Taking out a commercial loan, even one dedicated to such educational uses (i.e. the CDL) is only really viable if one secures employment for pretty much as soon as their course finishes; who’d want to bet on that at the moment?

    The next few years are rather worrying for recent or soon-to-be graduates. Even the courses that have traditionally had a bit of funding available, or are professionally sponsored (Social Work, PGCE) are facing an uncertain future. Worse (unless you have a degree in a coure curricula subject), who dares even follow the seemingly ‘safe’ option into teaching or other core services such as social work or nursing given the current attitudes held within government?

    As for a doctorate? Ask around, there is absolutely no joy to be had by undertaking a PhD without funding. Given that there are roughly the same number of Arts and Social Science scholarships to cover the triumvirate of Leeds, York, and Sheffield as once there was just at York, fewer and fewer people are going to have access to such funding.

    Access to PG study, like the ability (financial freedom) to take unpaid internships represents for me one of the remaining tools of societal stratification. While access to higher education has been widened magnificently in the last 15 years, the value of it has clearly declined in real terms. In essence, while the bar for entry into HE has been lowered, the bar for entry into PG study has been raised (financially not academically), which is an increasing problem given the competitive nature of the job market.

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  5. We here at the University of York Graduate Student Association (GSA) are in constant dialogue with University senior management about the University’s plans for graduate fees. As of yet there is no set plan for graduate fees, bursaries etc. in the post-Brown era. However, the GSA welcomes anyone who wants to stop in and chat with one of our representatives about what the future fees regime may look like, how we plan to help students cope, and so forth. You may also leave a comment for us through our website, http://www.yorkgsa.org/site/contact/contact-form.

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  6. GSA, yes, they’ll sort it out

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  7. 9 Feb ’11 at 11:40 pm

    Grammar Police

    The president of the GSA can’t even spell their organisation’s name correctly. It’s Graduate Students’ Association – notice the apostrophe on the s.

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  8. 15 Feb ’11 at 11:35 am

    Argumentative Raa

    Seriously how stupid are some of these statements!!!!

    -And without postgraduate study, there would be a distinct lack of teachers, accountants and journalists, to name a few.

    -York does not boast a large number of students who have parents that can casually pay for anything their offspring desire: yachts, a wardrobe of Jack Wills, or post-graduate degrees.

    Firstly you don’t need undergraduate degrees let alone postgraduate degrees to do most jobs! there are soooo many other routes, especially in accountancy where a graduate will start in the same position as an 18 year old straight from school……..from the bottom!!

    And OMG…..seriously, rich parents produce Raa kids……good one!! jokes!

    -Ask around, there is absolutely no joy to be had by undertaking a PhD without funding……..MOST PEOPLE ARE PAID TO DO A PhD!!, clearly not a Raa!

    Guess what, education is a choice (yes I know it’s free for all, but not postgraduate education). take out a loan, I did!

    that is all!

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  9. Psychology was an unfortunate choice of example, one of the most popular courses with very little relevance to career opportunity for graduates. Funding your own PhD is even more ludicrous, research groups that have secure funding employ PhD students; not only should you not be paying fees, you can expect a full-time wage – it’s not comparable to an undergraduate degree from a funding perspective.

    The fact is, postgraduate qualifications which are in demand are the easiest to find funding for (e.g. I have BBSRC funding for an MRes next year). If you find there are no sources of funding available, you should be asking yourself why you so desire this degree if no employers are interested in it… Perhaps you could better spend the year getting paid work and having greater real-life experience when it comes to the interview against those with post-graduate degrees.

    Many students are on autopilot when it comes to continuing education, but if the costs outweigh the benefits maybe you should look into other options.

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  10. Argumentative Raa:

    MOST PEOPLE ARE PAID TO DO A PhD

    Well, would you pay to work for three years? If the number of funded PhD places drops, do you think the number of PhD students will rise? You chump.

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