Should the government give more help with postgraduate funding?

With all the furore surrounding undergraduate tuition fees, the crisis in postgraduate funding is going practically undetected - but it is a real and growing problem.

On 12 December 2012, the government’s higher education department published a policy stating that 'anyone with the ability who wants to go to university should have the chance to do so, whatever their economic or social background'. After the sharp increase in undergraduate fees this academic year, the government is striving to show that they support the efforts of those wishing to attend university who have the ability, but not necessarily the financial means.

This recent rise in undergraduate fees is thought to be responsible for the 8.7 per cent decrease in university applicants reported by UCAS this time last year, but 30 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women in each year group are still thought to be obtaining a degree. Even with this decrease in applications, UCAS figures show that over 50,000 more people were accepted to university in 2012 than just five years previous. With undergraduate admissions on the rise overall, it seems logical that more people would wish to go a step further than this to obtain a postgraduate degree.

However, the shock of increased undergraduate fees has overshadowed the problem of postgraduate funding. The UK currently offers very little in the way of student finance for postgraduate degrees. The closest alternative is a professional and career development loan, which allows you to borrow up to £10,000 for a postgraduate course at the discretion of your bank. Although the government pays the interest on this loan during your studies, after that the repayments and interest are your responsibility; there is little difference between this and an ordinary loan. This is considered to be the last resort in terms of finding funding for your degree, once you have already exhausted the options of scholarships and bursaries, part-time employment and donations from charities.

Although there appears to be a vast range of options available, it is clear that the majority of financial help is offered to research students working in a field of interest for the benefactor. Durham PhD student Michael Foulkes points out that 'it's understandable that when money's tight people are more likely to fund someone who will cure diseases or invent something, rather than someone who fancies looking at 17th century French theatre or Latin', but his 'concern with postgrad funding in general is that it seems to be heading away from learning for the sake of it'.

This does seem to be reflected on many of the postgraduate admissions sections of UK university websites. Despite 'recognis[ing] that funding your study can be a major barrier to realising your ambitions', Exeter University calls itself a ‘research-intensive university’, seemingly sidelining those who wish to take up a taught postgraduate degree. Oxford University also implies this, stating that 62 per cent of research students receive full scholarship funding, in comparison to just 17 per cent of students on taught Master’s courses.

In fact, if you are lucky enough to be accepted onto a postgraduate course at Oxford University, the establishment requires a college financial guarantee outlining how you intend to pay your course fees and their estimated minimum living costs, which stand at an eye-watering £12,900 for 12 months as a postgraduate in 2013/14. The guarantee may not include projected earnings from any employment, and relevant evidence must be shown from all sources that will be used to finance the degree; a daunting task for many, proving that a choosing to do a postgraduate degree is a lengthy and arduous process. Cambridge University 'strongly recommends that students begin researching their funding opportunities at least a year in advance of the proposed start date of their course', as deadlines for applications for funding can be a year prior to the beginning of their studies, showing that even the brightest can suffer for being unorganized.

Even if you are fortunate enough to receive partial funding for a postgraduate degree, for students already in significant debt from their undergraduate degree, this can seem barely a dent in the huge cost of continuing in higher education. Surely the government should do more for those students who have a genuine joy and talent for academia; an English Student may never cure the world from cancer, but may go on to produce literature to heal the hearts of a nation. It is wrong to allow financial difficulty to discourage learning at a high level, and more help should be given by the government to ensure that gifted minds reach their full potential so that they can best contribute to the UK’s rich culture.

A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea