The numbers of UK and other European Union students starting full-time and part-time postgraduate taught courses increased substantially in 2016-17.
An estimated 90,600 started full-time courses in 2016-17, which is an increase of 22 per cent (16,100 students) on the previous year. The number starting part-time grew more modestly, but still showed an estimated increase of 8.6 per cent (5,900) to 74,900.
The increases in entrants are likely to be attributable to the introduction of postgraduate loans. These loans, of up to £10,000, are to help with course fees and living costs and have income-contingent repayments, similar to the undergraduate loan scheme.
Detailed analysis of the Higher Education Statistics Agency Student Record shows that part-time taught postgraduate students tend to be older than those studying full-time. In 2015-16, more than 70 per cent of entrants to full-time taught postgraduate courses were aged 25 or under, but just 17 per cent of part-time students were in this age group. It is too early to tell whether these splits will be affected by the postgraduate loan scheme, which may affect the participation of some groups of students more than others and influence the way in which they choose to study.
HEFCE analysis of transitions from undergraduate to postgraduate study found that mature and female students are less likely to start a full-time taught postgraduate degree within one year of graduating from their undergraduate course, but that black and minority ethnic students are more likely to do so.