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The report finds that:
Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said:
‘Postgraduate education is important for the life chances of individuals, for the supply of the highest levels of skills to enhance the nation’s productivity, and for universities as a bridge between their teaching and research activities. The PSS pilot projects provide an important source of evidence to inform government policy, university practice and further research. They have also enabled a substantial cohort of students to benefit from postgraduate study who would otherwise have been unable to do so.
This has set the pattern for the further investment we are making through the second round of the PSS in 2015-16, and the Government’s consultation on the introduction of loan finance from 2016-17. Beginning with today’s conference at the University of Sheffield, HEFCE will work with Government and the sector to ensure we secure the full benefits of this work.’
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:
‘This pilot programme demonstrates the life-changing role postgraduate finance can play in removing financial barriers to further study. Our proposed Postgraduate Masters Loan scheme will help talented students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to learn the high-level skills that benefit businesses up and down the country.’
The Government made clear its intention to support postgraduate education through a three-stage approach in the Autumn Statement 2014 [Note 2].
In the first stage, the PSS scheme was agreed in response to evidence in two reports published in July 2013, which highlighted the achievements of the postgraduate sector in England, but also recognised some threats to student opportunity at this level [Note 3]. The PSS builds on the additional £200 million investment HEFCE has made through recurrent funding for taught and research postgraduate education between 2012-13 and 2014-15 following decisions taken by the Board in 2012.
In the second stage, during 2015-16, HEFCE has allocated £50 million to higher education institutions to offer bursaries on a matched funding basis, announced in the Autumn Statement 2014. Bursaries of £10,000 will benefit 10,000 students. The 2015-16 scheme draws on findings from the HEFCE pilots to help universities and colleges decide how to allocate the bursaries.
This provides a bridge to the third stage, where Government has consulted on a £10,000 income-contingent loan for individuals wishing to undertake a year’s postgraduate taught masters study in any subject. The consultation on the proposed loan scheme closed in May 2015 and the Government’s response is expected in autumn 2015. The Government’s commitment to the loan scheme is affirmed in its Productivity Plan [Note 4].