University blues: It is time to overhaul postgraduate funding

Declining sponsorship is damaging a system that already favours the wealthy

Share

That British universities are proving ever more attractive to students from abroad should be cause for celebration. The lustre of our tertiary education sector is burnished, one of our most competitive exports is boosted, and welcome global links are forged. Nor is educating the world’s engineers, historians and computer programmers any kind of threat to our economic future. Or, at least, not if the high-level skills with which we are equipping others are also being developed at home.

Of this, however, there is now some doubt. Indeed, even as the number of international postgraduate students at British institutions increases, the number of their local counterparts is on the wane. The problem is not that sharper-elbowed, bigger-brained or deeper-pocketed foreigners are shoving homegrown graduates aside. It is that fewer Brits are applying.

The reason is, as ever, money. The furore over undergraduate fees has largely faded. Thus far, bills of up to £9,000 per year appear to have had little effect on either how many apply to study or their affluence. It can be argued that too few from disadvantaged backgrounds go to university, but the extra cost does not seem to have markedly worsened the situation.

Postgraduate qualifications are a different matter, though. At that level, students have always largely funded themselves. Now, declining sponsorship and rising undergraduate debt are adding to the pressure on a system already unduly skewed towards the well-off. An even sharper fall-off is expected after 2016, by which time graduates will be £18,000 in the red.

In response, a group of leading universities are calling for a loan system, similar to that for undergraduates, with repayment only once income reaches a certain level. There is no time to waste. Britain’s competitiveness is not threatened by the skills of others but the lack of skills of our own.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam