During the first stage, in 2014-15, HEFCE has provided £25 million for pilot projects testing different ways of stimulating progression to taught postgraduate level. Early findings from this work show that there is significant frustrated demand for taught postgraduate study, but that financial contributions – which do not necessarily need to cover all of the costs – are successful in addressing this [Note 2].
In the second stage, during 2015-16, the Government has confirmed in the Autumn Statement that HEFCE will allocate £50 million to higher education institutions (HEIs) to offer bursaries on a match-funded basis. These bursaries will be £10,000, and will benefit 10,000 students.
The scheme will draw on the findings of the HEFCE pilots to help universities and colleges decide how to allocate the bursaries. The distribution of bursaries to institutions will be confirmed later this month, enabling them to be aligned with postgraduate admissions plans for 2015-16 [Note 3].
This will provide a bridge to the third stage, which the Government also announced in the Autumn Statement: the introduction from 2016-17 of income-contingent loans for students under 30 years old wishing to undertake a postgraduate taught masters in any subject.
HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins said:
'Since the reforms to undergraduate finance in 2012, HEFCE has been at the forefront of efforts to improve understanding of postgraduate education. A key issue we have identified through this work has been the high level of frustrated demand due to the absence of financial support for taught postgraduate students and the very positive effect that a financial contribution from Government can make to address it.
'In this context, I am delighted that the Government has announced a wide-ranging loan scheme for masters students and that we can build upon the Postgraduate Support Scheme by allocating 10,000 taught postgraduate bursaries to students who will be graduating with higher levels of undergraduate debt this year. This will provide a much-needed bridge to the wider postgraduate student loan proposals announced by the Chancellor.'