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Autumn statement response: bolder plans needed for postgraduates

3 December 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Bolder measures are needed to encourage more people into postgraduate study and to ensure the replenishment of the academic profession, UCU said today.

Speaking in response to the chancellor's autumn statement, the union said that proposals for postgraduate tuition fee loans outlined today were a step in the right direction, but that more radical ideas were needed to relieve the mounting debt burden on students of all ages. UCU added that the next government had to stand up for education across the board and deliver more than the warm words the union expected to hear in the run up to the election.

The union suggested that other options, like the restoration of grants for postgraduate study or a partial write-off of undergraduate debt for those completing postgraduate courses, would be more helpful. It also stressed that support is required for all types of postgraduate study, including postgraduate research degrees. UCU said it would be studying today's plans in greater detail and producing proposals of its own in the new year about how to encourage postgraduate study.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'It's positive that the government has moved to address the current crisis in postgraduate funding, but encouraging people to accrue more debt is not the best way to attract the best and brightest into further study. If we really want to expand the number of UK postgraduates, government must consider even more radical ideas such as restoring proper grants or writing off part of a student's undergraduate debt when they complete a postgraduate course - as currently happens for access courses students. 

'As ever, the devil will be in the detail and we will be closely scrutinising these plans and delivering our own proposals in this area in the new year. It is vitally important that there is proper support for all kinds of postgraduate student, including mature students and those undertaking research degrees, if we are to ensure the replenishment of the academic profession.

'We need the next government to be one that stands up for education and offers more than just warm words. We expect to hear much about the importance of education and the great work it does as we move towards the election, but what we really want to hear are clear, bold and supportive plans.'

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