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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Foundation Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking EY...

NQT's needed

£100 - £120 per day + Paying from £100 to £120 per day: Randstad Education Lee...

Year 6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Full time Year 6 class te...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning