Today the final report of Lord Browne's review into Higher Education funding and student finance was released. The review had been tasked with examining taught postgraduate fees and funding as well as undergraduate finance. Funding for postgraduate research students was not considered.
Incredibly, the review claimed to find no evidence to support changes to postgraduate funding systems. Currently the vast majority of taught postgraduate students receive no help with funding their course, not even from a loan system. NUS gave evidence to the review panel arguing for an extension of the student support system to taught postgraduate students on the grounds of ensuring fair access to postgraduate study.
The report, Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education, makes the following arguments:
- Participation in taught postgraduate study has increased at the same rate as participation in undergraduate study since 2002/03
- The private benefits of postgraduate education are greater than the public benefits, and are sufficient to motivate private investment either through accessing commercial credit or employer funding
- In a time of constrained public spending undergraduate education should be a higher priority than postgraduate education
- Evidence of higher participation in postgraduate study of individuals from wealthier backgrounds appears to be due to similar patters of participation in undergraduate education rather than because access to postgraduate education is constrained
This assessment ignores the key issue that not every individual with the will and capacity to undertake postgraduate study has access to private investment such as employer funding or commercial credit, meaning that access to postgraduate education is still based on ability to pay over and above other considerations.
The report also recommends that public investment in postgraduate education should be targeted at subjects of strategic importance. This is likely to result in withdrawal of funding for postgradaute courses in the arts and social sciences, driving up the cost of these courses and making them more inaccessible.
Read the NUS summary of the whole report