Is a postgraduate degree worth the money?

Deciding to stay in education after your degree can help you get a better job but courses can cost up to £12,000. Here’s why it’s worth the investment

It's a big moment: that decision to commit to further study. As peers venture into the workplace, gaining valuable experience while chipping away at a mound of student debt, it's a bold move to rack up yet more expense and return to education.

But those starting on a postgraduate course this academic year have the option to take on a Government-backed postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 to cover fees and living costs, with repayment linked to income. The loan scheme is designed to widen accessibility at a time when there’s mounting evidence that students from lower-income households are increasingly being priced out. However, it remains to be seen whether it will deliver on this aim – especially as some student officers worry that universities will find it hard to resist the appeal of allowing course fees to drift towards the £10,000 cap, leaving little left over for living costs.

Take advantage of bursaries and discounts

Students worried about financing a Masters need to do their due diligence. Costs range from around £4,000 to £12,000 for most one-year programmes, and the available bursaries, scholarships and other financial awards also vary from one institution to the next. These pots of financial support can add up to a material difference in costs.

Ieuan Smith, for example, was savvy enough to find a number of bursaries and discounts that took the cost of his MA in political parties and elections at Keele University from £4,900 to £1,900. A Professional and Career Development Loan and support from family covered the rest of the fees and his living costs.

“Don't just look at the university bursaries and scholarships,” advises Ieuan, now investigating PhD options. “Talk to your tutors as most schools also seem to have their own bursaries that are not so well advertised.”

A smart investment

Roseanne Willison-Parry, who was lucky enough to borrow the £10,000 fee from her parents, is already starting to see a return. Just months after graduating with an MSc in management from Lancaster University, she secured a three-month paid internship with consulting firm Valecon - an opportunity that arose after she interviewed the CEO for her dissertation.

“I think it's really been worth the investment,” says Roseanne. “It's given me the knowledge and confidence to hopefully go into consulting, and one day start my own business.”

For Vanessa Odell, who struggled to juggle a full-time job to finance a part-time Msc in environmental sustainability and green technology at Keele University, the hard work and money worries have also paid off.

Now delighted to be working on an ambitious food waste reduction project, she adds: “I was never motivated to do it by money but being able to get a job that will make a difference.”

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