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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Postgraduate students at Durham University.

The scheme will test ways of supporting progression into taught postgraduate education in England. It aims to ensure the continued success of taught postgraduate provision by working with universities and employers to stimulate participation by students who would not otherwise progress to this level. 

The 20 successful pilot projects will support more than 2,800 students and involve a range of support activities including financial and pastoral support, mentoring and networking, curricula change, funded studentships, work placements and a variety of bursary and loan schemes. Most of the 20 projects will be working with a range of partners including other higher education institutions and employers.

David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, said:

'Postgraduate study is good for students, good for universities, and good for the economy.

‘We want talented graduates from all backgrounds to feel inspired and able to continue their education.

‘This £25 million investment will help develop partnerships, explore different ways of financing postgraduate study, and attract students from less advantaged backgrounds to postgraduate education. It will also provide a big boost to our internationally renowned postgraduate sector.’

Steve Egan, HEFCE Interim Chief Executive, said:

‘The range and innovative approaches in the schemes which universities have devised to increase take up of postgraduate courses is impressive. We will work closely with the projects to see what is working well and to communicate this widely to build strong foundations for this critical aspect of higher education.’ 

Rachel Wenstone, NUS Vice President (Higher Education), said:

‘This is a really positive step and owes a great deal to the fantastic work and campaigning from students’ unions across the country. 

‘Whilst this announcement is a great step forward there is still more work to do to get a fair and sustainable funding solution that works for students and for institutions. We will continue to lobby the Government to ensure that we get long-term solutions, not just quick fixes. We will be closely monitoring the legacy that these trials leave behind and will campaign for these support systems to be permanent and continued.’ 

Mick Fuller, Chair of the UK Council for Graduate Education, said:

'This is the best piece of recent news for PGT provision in England. A wide range of projects engaging HEIs across the full spectrum of PGT providers will be supported through some really innovative ideas. The commitment for the majority of funding to end up sponsoring students to undertake PGT study will be really exciting news for final year undergraduates and recent graduates contemplating postgraduate study as well as people who are considering to return to university to upskill or to change career direction. The initiative should see an upsurge of interest in applications for 2014 entry and provide HEFCE and the sector with important intelligence on how to improve the sustainability of PGT courses in the future.'

The projects were recommended by a panel chaired by Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, and including members of HEFCE’s Strategic Advisory Committees, as well as representatives from the UK Council for Graduate Education and the National Union of Students. 

The scheme was agreed by the HEFCE Board in response to evidence in two reports published in July 2013 (see HEFCE 2013/13 and HEFCE 2013/14) which highlighted the achievements of the postgraduate sector in England, but also recognised some threats to student opportunity at this level. 

This scheme builds on the additional £200 million investment HEFCE is making through recurrent funding for taught and research postgraduate education between 2012-13 and 2014-15 as a result of decisions made by the HEFCE Board in 2012. 

It complements a number of other key strands of evidence the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and HEFCE are gathering on postgraduate education, which include a new report exploring student demand for postgraduate study, and a new addition to the National Student Survey on intentions after graduation (Note), more systematic data on the fees and costs associated with postgraduate education, and an international comparison of systems for supporting postgraduate education. 

HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme: project summaries 

Aston University

Accessible Excellence and Employability for Taught Postgraduates is a multi-stranded project, including:

  • extension of outreach programmes involving other Birmingham higher education institutions
  • fee scholarships to under-represented groups
  • mentoring, careers advice and languages provision
  • extension of the employer-postgraduate matching service
  • engagement with employers
  • focus on employability. 

University of Bath

The project will develop an innovative 15-month Enhanced MSc in Modern Building Design co-developed and co-delivered with employers. This will include a six-month work placement, drawing on the university’s large and well-established existing employer network, and core research and employability skills training. Tuition fees will be paid, as will £6,000 in living costs for the most disadvantaged students. The programme’s effectiveness in overcoming barriers to progression, addressing gender imbalances and improving employability will be evaluated.

Brunel University

A project to address under-representation of women in engineering courses and to increase graduates with higher level technical and engineering skills in for Government growth strategies. It will provide 40 studentships for the Women in Engineering programme, and 20 studentships for its Industrial Master’s programme; the latter will expand work of the former by focusing on promoting students’ understanding of industrial environment and culture. The students will receive fee grants and bursaries worth £1,250 per month. 

Cranfield University

This pilot study will establish the feasibility of an affordable and sustainable funding mechanism for loans to postgraduate taught (PGT) students taking science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. The project will explore methods of attracting external funds to facilitate access to PGT courses for those who could not otherwise afford to participate. 

University of Derby

This project will deliver two new PGT delivery models in the engineering sector: a full-time model involving a contract with employers, and a part-time model using electronic and work-based learning. 

Durham University

Durham University is exploring the establishment of a Credit Union, the common-bond of which would be staff, students and alumni. It would offer postgraduate taught master’s tuition fee loans, creating a new and innovative funding model which would become self-financing over time. The Credit Union would support social mobility by giving students access to funds at low cost. A key element of the project is to share and disseminate the acquired learning across the sector. 

University of Essex

This two-strand project will test two innovative programmes aimed at enhancing employability:

  • £5,000 fee waivers to PGT students acting as mentors to third year undergraduates and obtaining a Level 3 Workplace Coaching award
  • traineeships consisting of six-month taught modules, 12-week paid work placements, and a knowledge exchange project in collaboration with employer.
    Each strand will target 100 students. 

University of Greenwich

An innovative package of mentoring, work placements and financial support is at the heart of the Greenwich Fast Forward Masters Programme. One hundred and fifty high-calibre home students, from historically under-represented groups, will be supported to stay on in higher education and study in disciplines relevant to the government’s growth sectors. The project builds on Greenwich’s success in this area at undergraduate level and will be supported by a detailed research programme to test its impact and effectiveness. 

Imperial College London

This one-year feasibility scheme will explore whether financial assistance encourages applications and successful admissions to, and successful completion of, taught postgraduate study by lower-income groups. Tuition fee waivers will be offered to Home students with lower household income levels, while maintenance grants will be added to those waivers for the most financially disadvantaged students. 

Institute of Education

An eight-month, full-time programme developed and delivered by the Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre, initially directed at mature students in work (who are also under-represented among entrants to social science PGT/PGR) leading to a PG Diploma in social science research methods. Programme will develop research skills of employees and also act as pre-doctoral training. It includes a quantitative ‘conversion’ course and language training as complements to the programme. Funding covers 30 8-month studentships. 

King’s College London

This project seeks to further diversify the college’s postgraduate student population in nursing, psychiatry, the cultural Industries, theatre-related careers and informatics across postgraduate taught and postgraduate research programmes. It will test new ways of engaging under-represented students, including pre-sessional and extra-curricular activities, a new kind of mentoring support and scholarships for tuition fees and living costs. 

Kingston University London

This collaborative research project will investigate expectations and attitudes of students, universities and employers towards postgraduate study in science, technology engineering and mathematics, and the outcomes following students’ graduation, to support and sustain growth in this area in the UK. The project will offer 40 fee scholarships at each of the nine English partner institutions and lead to the development of a range of student support mechanisms. 

Lancaster University

The Postgraduate Enterprise Academic Partnership (PEAP): Big Data Education Catalyst project will explore how to collect store and process huge volumes of data across a number of key disciplines. Particularly important is the engagement with industry to design bespoke MSc programmes to train future users in the management of Big Data, especially within the fields of Cyber Security, Maths and Stats and Environmental Science; and the engagement of partners and students to analyse the effectiveness of the programmes. 

University of Oxford

A match-funded scholarship programme to support students’ progression into a wide range of one-year full-time and two-year part-time master’s courses, plus funded national and international internships to encourage access to academic research and the professions. The project will also include an adaptation of the Springboard personal development programme, for women on master’s courses, and further research into access to graduate study at Oxford. 

Nottingham Trent University

This industry-led pilot project will test three models for multidisciplinary masters provision:

  • in-company graduate training programme (two years, part-time)
  • industrial project (one year, full-time)
  • graduate internship (two years, full-time).

A number of partners will host industrial projects and provide matched funding for 50 part-time and full-time students across the three strands, with taster sessions for prospective Masters students. 

Royal Veterinary College

A collaborative project focused on 300 undergraduate students from under-represented backgrounds, from 9 higher education institutions across 50 subjects. The project will identify, train, pay and support PGT students to act as mentors to UG students; 20 mentors at each HEI. There will be two strands: Information, advice and guidance and academic achievement. Sustainability will be achieved by embedding activities in an Access to HE network and incorporating an e-mentoring platform. 

SOAS, University of London

A mixture of scholarships and bursaries to enable students to progress to two-year taught postgraduate programmes to undertake intensive language-based studies of the Arab World, China, India, Japan, and Korea. Additional shorter training programmes will also be available for existing PG students to enhance their research and language skills.

University of Sheffield

This pilot project incorporates academic innovation, finance, intervention and research strands. Elements include scholarships for under-represented groups across particular disciplines, a career development loan scheme, development of new programmes to address postgraduate entry, employment-focused masters degrees, enhanced undergraduate programmes and inreach and outreach activities to encourage progression and retention. The university partners in this project are: Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Warwick and York. 


The Evaluating Mechanisms to Attract and Retain Under-Represented PGT Students project will pilot a range of outreach and recruitment activities in various discipline contexts, to determine through robust evaluation which strategies are most effective in increasing diversity on PGT programmes. It will also test the sensitivity of potential PGT students to fee waivers and bursaries. 

University of Worcester

The project will develop a taught masters course in business, whose recruitment focuses strongly on students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and low participation neighbourhoods or with disabilities. The postgraduate programme will include financial support, work experience or business start-up support for all disciplines.


A report on the intentions of students on graduation is available on the HEFCE web-site.