Leading universities warn of 'emerging crisis' in postgraduate education

The 1994 Group of research intensive universities is calling on the Government to take action to avoid lasting damage being done to postgraduate education in the UK. The call comes in a new report ‘The Postgraduate Crises’ which the Group is publishing today (Thursday). The report argues that successive Governments have neglected postgraduate education and that the current Government’s HE reforms risk causing damage to postgraduate education which would have “severe and long term impacts for the UK.”

The report highlights a range of ways in which reforms to higher education (HE) are impacting on postgraduate education. It argues that “cuts to funding will force universities to raise fees at the same time as an increased debt burden from undergraduate study may act as a disincentive to many students who would otherwise consider postgraduate study.” In particular the report warns that the lack of a student support system for postgraduate students and the requirement for fees to be paid up front could mean that students from poorer backgrounds will be unable to take up postgraduate opportunities.

The report argues that a decline in postgraduate education will have a long term negative impact on the UK economy. It argues that:

·         Postgraduate skills are critical to a strong economy and are increasingly in demand from global employers;

·         The international students attracted by UK postgraduate courses bring significant boosts to local and national economies;

·         Postgraduates play a crucial role in generating new knowledge and driving innovation;

·         Postgraduates play a pivotal role in transferring research knowledge to industry.

Professor Michael Farthing, Chairman of the 1994 Group and Vice Chancellor at the University of Sussex, said:

“High level skills are absolutely essential to the country's long term economic prospects but we’re in real danger of choking off the pipeline of future postgraduate talent. The Government’s failure to address postgraduate funding has been a real error of judgement and we need to see some immediate action to avoid disaster.”

The report proposes a range of measures to support postgraduate study, including:

·         A reconsideration of the withdrawal of teaching funding for postgraduate study,  with a commitment to continued funds being available beyond those which have been announced for the 2012/13 academic year;

·         Government action to encourage banks to create better terms for Personal and Career Development Loans (PCDLs) and for them to be more widely available;

·         Efforts to encourage employee and industry sponsorship of postgraduate provision.

Professor Farthing added:

“With public finances so tight the Government needs to think innovatively about how to fund postgraduate education. Encouraging more banks to offer loans on better terms to postgraduate students, alongside incentives for businesses to sponsor postgraduate courses, seems like a good place to start. It’s absolutely crucial that something is done and that it is done quickly. It could take years to re-establish postgraduate courses wiped out by the falling demand lack of student funding will bring. We have to act now to avoid such a meltdown. “




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Mark Fuller

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Notes to Editors:

1.   The full report ‘The Postgraduate Crisis’ is available at http://www.1994group.ac.uk/documents/120215_PostgraduateCrisis.pdf


2. The 1994 Group represents 19 of the UK’s leading student-focused research-intensive universities. It was established in 1994 to promote excellence in University research and teaching.

3.  12 of the top 20 universities in the Guardian University Guide 2012 league tables are 1994 Group members. 8 of the top 20 universities in the 2012 Sunday Times University League Table are 1994 Group members. 9 of the top 20 universities in the 2012 Complete University Guide are 1994 Group members.


4.  In 17 major subject areas 1994 Group universities are the UK leaders, achieving 1st place in their field (THE RAE subject rankings 2008). 57% of the 1994 Group's research is rated 4* 'world-leading' or 3* 'internationally excellent' (RAE 2008, HEFCE).

5.    The 1994 Group represents: University of Bath, Birkbeck University of London, Durham University, University of East Anglia, University of Essex, University of Exeter, Goldsmiths University of London, Institute of Education University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, Lancaster University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Reading, University of St Andrews, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of Surrey, University of Sussex, University of York.

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