Postgraduate courses 'social mobility barrier'

 
Graduates Postgraduate numbers have trebled since the 1990s

The cost of postgraduate university courses could become an extra obstacle to social mobility, warns a study from the Sutton Trust charity.

It says if students need postgraduate degrees for a tough jobs market, poor students should not be priced out.

There are fears that increased undergraduate tuition fees could deter people from staying on at university.

Postgraduate courses could become the "preserve of the better off student", says trust chairman, Sir Peter Lampl.

The study, carried out by researchers at the London School of Economics and Surrey University, looked at the rise in postgraduate numbers - and how it might affect fair access to jobs.

Rising costs

The proportion of people of working age in Britain with a postgraduate qualification has climbed rapidly - up to 11% from 4% in 1996.

The study found that a postgraduate degree remained linked to higher earnings, worth on average more than an extra £5,000 per year compared with someone who only had an undergraduate degree.

But the report raises concerns that if employers increasingly want to recruit people with postgraduate degrees, that such courses should not be limited to wealthier students.

Start Quote

Postgraduate study is becoming increasingly the preserve of the better off student, both from home and abroad”

End Quote Sir Peter Lampl Sutton Trust

In particular, there is a worry that if students have had to pay up to £9,000 per year for three years they are less likely to want to take on the financial burden of even more years of university.

"Graduates facing debts in excess of £40,000 through undergraduate student loans are likely to see the prospect of funding a further £20,000 a year in fees and living costs, without having access to student loans, truly daunting," says Sir Peter.

"When I was growing up, there were many professions that were open to young people with good A-levels.

"More recently, an undergraduate degree has become essential for many of those careers. Now we find that a postgraduate degree is increasingly expected," says Sir Peter, describing this inflation of academic expectations.

"Of course, a better educated workforce should be good for Britain. But it is essential that this should not come at the expense of widening inequalities of access to these professions.

"Postgraduate study is becoming increasingly the preserve of the better off student, both from home and abroad."

The Sutton Trust says there should be a better system for providing financial assistance to students wanting to stay on for postgraduate courses.

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 118.

    30 years ago when we went to Uni everything was paid for and students then never had it so good. Even the degrees were easy - I got a law degree at Nottingham for drinking beer for 3 years. I am in the fortunate position of being able to subsidise our kids but not all parents can afford to, so education is becoming the preserve of the rich.

  • Comment number 117.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 116.

    A-levels are the new O-levels, Degrees are the new A-levels, Ph.Ds are the new Degrees. I know, I have one. The quality of all of these (except certain Ph.Ds) declines while new market forces make universities inflate degree grades. To be fair, useful scientific Ph.Ds are often fully funded. The problem is the market for Masters degrees as graduates look for solutions to their crap/useless BA/B.Sc

  • Comment number 115.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 114.

    I did a BSc(Hons), a BA(Hons) and then an MA ... and finally found a source of stable self-employment requiring none of those. I don't make big bucks but I'm never short of work.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 113.

    I have a PhD completed in 1974, in engineering. It was fun whilst I did it at a Russel Group University, but of course, I lost more than three years compared to my peers who started to build careers in various companies and organisations and moved ahead of me in asset purchases, travel etc. It is a choice that one makes, but I have never regretted mine - what would be the poin?. Stop whining.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 112.

    When gradutes have £60K-£80K of debts what's going to persuade them to add another £20K or so to get a Masters that probably isn't going to help them in the jobs market? Getting funded for 3-4 years to do a PhD (though funding is diminishing there too) that then defers paying back the loan might be an attractive idea so long as you stand a better chance of getting a job at the end of it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 111.

    I definitely feel priced out. I graduated with a first, but because of my background I can barely afford the interview let alone the course fees and living costs.

    I was brought up by a Labour government who instilled in me that all I needed to move up in society was hard work and determination. It seems like Blair was lyng, because now without a band of 20s in your pocket, you're going nowhere.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 110.

    I also agree that undergraduate degrees have been devalued by encouraging less academic students to go to university and then creating courses that are easier to accommodate them. University used to be a place to study. Now, more and more, it is becoming another place to train for employment. A post-graduate degree should not be a means to getting ahead it should be about academic curiosity.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 109.

    Finished first degree in '75, no fees but parents had to pay all bar £50 of living expenses, MA p/t with OU paid for out of earnings, now retired and on 3rd one [MSc], again p/t. Fees for current one less than kids' first ones so not quite sure where some fees quoted are coming from, perhaps non EU? Have to say I do question the need for so many graduates but can't blame those who are studying.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 108.

    A 2:1 from most universities today seems to be the equivalent of 4 GCEs taken 50+ years ago. This is on the basis that a few 0 levels taken 50 years ago got you a job that you need a 2:1 to do today.
    This does no one any favours.
    We need tougher academic courses at school, fewer but brighter students at Uni, better vocational training at school with a return of polytechnics, and FREE education!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 107.

    Wealth takes time to accumulate..we have to accept that, total wealth re-distribution isn't likely to happen now, so rich people will have an edge. (otherwise what's the point of being rich and working hard?)
    I suppose as long as the life gets better for the family, there's still social mobility, tho slower. I might not be able to afford phd, but with a good job, my son/daughter will be.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 106.

    This is not in favour of our pathetic tory led colalition goverment.

    Of course this was going to happan, and it's the previous Labour Goverments fault thinking it was a good idea to have EVERYONE to get a degree no matter what there career plans were. The more people have a qualification the less it means. So now postgrad = under grad degree, Degree =A-level, A-level=GCSE, GCSE means nothing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 105.

    @91.Peter
    Affording on top of their £25k debt? How is anyone earning enough whilst doing a PGCE in order to have to start paying back your student loan?! Therefore a student loan is not affecting your ability to 'afford' anything

    @81-the article is about postgrads, howver the discussion below has been about fees generally being unfair which is wrong and i thought i should balance the argument

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 104.

    Fatuous!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 103.

    Why this focus on social mobility? So many people have degrees nowadays, these degrees are no longer differentiators in the employment market. This affects income, which affects 'social status'.

    Postgrad education is provided as a service, not a right. You have to pay for a service. Limited supply, means cost is high. Economics.

    That you 'need' postgrad for a job reinforces my 1st point.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 102.

    @91. Peter

    For a PGCE you will be entitled to a tuition fee loan as long as you have a 2:2 in your degree. To say that trainee teachers "cannot afford" the course is nonsense.

    There are also alternative paid routes into the profession (GTP, Teach First and Schools Direct (salaried)) and graduates with good degrees in shortage subjects get generous bursaries - up to 20k.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 101.

    Whilst I can see the point in good education it seems that this country has become obsessed with Degrees.Even according to the report where once 'A' levels were considered the correct qualification a degree is now required. I have worked with many very successful people who did not have degrees, and also many useless ones who had. Lets get back to reality in our requirement for real qualifications

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 100.

    I was a graduate in 1985 and couldn't get a job. I looked at postgraduate courses in my field and there was no funding available to study further. I found out I could get a cheap bank loan to do a postgraduate course in management. This took me 7 years to pay off. So what's changed in that time - nothing! Postgrad study in the UK has always been for the better off. Shameful!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 99.

    Funding may be a barrier to entry for taught postgraduate programs... but many research postgraduate programs are fully funded and include an ample living stipend.

    If you feel like you have got what it takes, money is not an excuse not to try.

    http://www.findaphd.com/

    Research degrees generate knowledge which benefits society as a whole.

 

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