Postgraduate study now a luxury few can affordRISING COSTS ARE A MAJOR BARRIER, WARN ORDINARY GRADS

The huge cost of studying for a postgraduate qualification is putting off ordinary graduates from applying, a new survey has revealed – and experts warn that a crisis could be looming, as further study becomes a luxury option available only to those from wealthy backgrounds.

The latest research by TARGETcourses – which polled nearly 2,000 undergraduates – has revealed that cost is the main barrier to continuing their education at a higher level once they graduate with their first degree. With fees rising and public funding uncertain, a growing number of those considering further study are planning to borrow money from their parents, delay starting their course, work part-time during the course, live at home or turn to their bank for financial help. The survey found that:

– The top two reasons for not enrolling on a postgraduate course were the cost and the lack of funding available

– Four in ten respondents said they would seriously consider studying a postgraduate course abroad (where fees are lower, or sometimes zero)

– Six in ten expect to work part-time during their postgraduate course to make ends meet

– Nearly half say they would borrow money from their family to pay for their postgraduate course

– More than a quarter of state-educated UK undergraduates plan to live at home while completing their postgraduate study

Clearly, this is bad news for anybody who is keen to pursue their studies beyond their undergraduate degree. But experts fear it could also spell disaster for the UK economy. Chris Phillips, Research and Information Director at GTI Media – which owns TARGETcourses – said:

“This could be a real problem for the UK economy. As we move away from traditional industries to cement our place in the world as a smart, modern, high-tech creator and exporter, we need a more educated workforce. If postgraduate education becomes less of an attractive option for our brightest undergrads, there will be consequences a few years down the line.”

Already, more UK undergraduates are studying abroad, especially in European countries that offer postgraduate education (in English), with lower fees (or sometimes no fees at all). Germany and Scandinavia are particularly popular destinations.

There are fears that over time, UK universities could lose their hard-won reputation for quality, which could further depress their attractiveness to everyone, including international students who currently pay even higher fees than British students. The crisis could impact undergraduates too, as universities are increasingly dependent upon fees from postgraduates to run their institutions now that the government has severely cut back on funding.

Worse still, there are warnings that the full effects are not even being felt yet. Don’t forget, those students who have paid the new, higher tuition fees for their undergraduate courses have not finished their first degrees yet. And with some predicting that average debts could reach £53,000 when they graduate in 2015, aren’t they surely even less likely to shell out for expensive postgraduate courses?


Should more funding, bursaries and loans be made available so that graduates from all backgrounds can continue their studies if they wish? Or do universities simply need a new business model that relies less heavily on hefty fees from all their students, whether they’re studying at undergraduate or postgraduate level? Is postgraduate study available to all, or only those from wealthier backgrounds?

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