Enough is enough: Masters loans need to change

Postgrads are vital, not just to the economy but to the furtherance of human learning. So why is getting funding so hard?

Any fool with a winning Euromillions ticket can get the best of everything, except qualifications. It's academic letters that remain perhaps one of the most coveted rarities which cannot be acquired by money alone - at least, not if one observes the law - so it’s no paradox to point out that the main problem with master’s degrees is that not everyone can afford one.

Though there is som institutional support and a keen employer might fund a course, most hoping to further their education rely on the Career Development Loan. Unlike the undergraduate loan, which stops and starts and bends to unpredictable student circumstances; taking out a CDL (with its 9.9 per cent interest rate) is a risk.

Effectively, students wager on the likelihood of future success and high earnings. The kicker? Upon graduation, Masters students without a career or a backer remain bound by repayments (typically around £200 a month) and, if unable to cope, will promptly shred their financial standing, which will later derail mortgage and credit card applications. It is imperative a state-backed master’s loan is introduced, as the current inadequacies and shortcomings in the system contemptibly discriminate between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot. 

Initiating a scheme for Masters loans, in much the same way it does for undergraduates, is as in the interest of our government as it is for hard-up students. Highly qualified, highly skilled graduates undoubtedly are indispensable in reviving our economy; as Lord Leitch opined in 2006, those with post-graduate qualifications are ‘major drivers of innovation and growth’ who are ‘critical to a high-skills, high-performance economy’.

He also said post-graduate qualifications are ‘one of the most powerful levers for improving productivity’. How can it be right to put a fiscal leash on those wishing to be a part of this? President Obama may have been talking about the USA, but his point is also appropriate for us: "Make no mistake," he said. "The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow."  Bar access to higher education and students are likely to look elsewhere for education - and work elsewhere, too.

There’s an important corollary here. Postgraduate degrees earn and retain their reputation of quality through two things: the calibre of teaching and the calibre of those being taught. Those who teach are set – but the students? It’s by no means certain that the best students are those studying; it is merely those who have the means. A state-backed loan, with lesser risks, a lower rate of interest and more affordable, manageable repayments, would counteract this. Masters would be attainable for all and crucially, to those who are potentially the best and are currently being denied their chance.

There is, of course, an obvious flip to this. If Masters are made more accessible, university classes will expand in response to increased demand and the accordingly temptation of enlarged profit. If more qualify with an MA or MSc et al, the potency and worth of such a degree is liable to be diluted. This can be countered simply by raising the academic standards necessary for an application. It would also ensure that only the very best worked toward those precious Ms after their name.

This sort of intellectual filtering is already in practice with those courses integrating a Masters; those who do not achieve the necessary results are politely taken to one side and told to take the next exit, whereupon they graduate with a standard undergraduate degree. The finances for integrated masters are administered as an extension of the regular undergrad loan; evidently, then, managing post-graduate finances in this manner is practicable. At the risk of seeming churlish, it does seem a touch unfair that some subjects are helpfully financed while others are overlooked.

There have been mutterings of late that a change is coming. More than mutterings are needed; debates on the finances of students rage frequently, yet post-graduates are wrongfully omitted, as if their position is favourable and needs no change. It decidedly does need change, which must happen forthwith. If not, our universities will idly continue to accept those who are the most fiscally able, and not necessarily those who are the most academically able, which is an unscrupulous state of affairs for our Government to condone.

David Ellis is editor of student finance website studentmoneysaver.co.uk

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketing Assistant - Wimbledon

£18000 - £19000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Digital Marketin...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SPONSORED FEATURES

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'