Cost biggest barrier to postgraduate study, says report

17 December 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Over half of graduates intending to continue with postgraduate study end up not doing so, and cite financial reasons as the biggest barrier to continuing their studies, according to a report released today.

The report, from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), suggests that while 17 per cent of graduates intended to pursue a postgraduate qualification, only half that number actually did so within six months of graduation.

The report also found that students from non-traditional backgrounds were less likely to go on to study at postgraduate level, and that mature students were less likely to do so than their younger contemporaries.

UCU said government plans, announced in the autumn statement, to offer student loans for some students aged under 30 to study postgraduate courses did not go far enough. The union said bolder measures, such as the restoration of grants or a partial write-off of undergraduate debt for those completing postgraduate courses, would be more helpful than extra debt.

Autumn statement analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that students who take out a new loan to fund further study would effectively pay a 50% tax rate as basic rate taxpayers (20% income tax, plus 12% NI, plus 9% repayment of undergraduate loan, plus 9% repayment of postgraduate loan) and 60% as higher rate taxpayers.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'This report sadly shows how thousands of people who want to continue their studies fall by the wayside because of financial worries, particularly mature students and those from the non-traditional backgrounds.

'While it was positive to see the government try to address the crisis in postgraduate funding, we are not convinced encouraging people to accrue more debt is the best way to attract the best and brightest into further study.'

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