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Higher Education shouldn't just be for the rich

(23 Posts)
JaniceHarrison81 Tue 09-Dec-14 14:05:28

I think it's about time this government supported post-graduate education.

Both of my twin sons graduated last year and I couldn't afford to help through a masters degree.

Hopefully now they'll have a chance:

Mrsmorton Tue 09-Dec-14 17:17:55

How far does it go? I can't afford to do a PhD. I don't need one, do they need a masters?

Most students never pay back their student loans.

If a masters degree would increase their earning potential that much, they could always take out a loan to cover their studies then pay it back with their higher earnings once they graduate.

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 09-Dec-14 18:54:45

PhDs still have some funding attached. Masters didn't really (though neither has enough). That's what was so cruel: people were struggling to do the Masters they needed in order to do the PhD/have a chance of PhD funding.

It's often very hard to get a careers loan for a Masters.

I am in two minds about the numbers of people doing postgrad qualifications, but I don't think the right way to reduce numbers is to make it all but impossible for people without family income.

Lilymaid Tue 09-Dec-14 20:40:37

I am funding DS's MSc as it is a subject ( Economics) where you really need a higher degree to become an Economist, though a first degree is fine for non- economist jobs in business/ City.
If we didn't have a good income and savings we wouldn't have been in a position to help.

Greengrow Wed 10-Dec-14 17:08:52

There are a good few students who are too useless to get a job on graduation so just do a masters to mark time. I am not sure i want to be funding them as a tax payer particularly. Now if it's a really worthwhile one that will mean they pay tons of tax in later life then yes perhaps.

JeanneDeMontbaston Wed 10-Dec-14 17:28:25


I know where you're coming from, green, but what would you define as worthwhile, and what do you define as 'tons'?

I know this is only one part of the issue, but a difficulty with the current system as I see it, is that you need to do postgraduate work to be an academic. Postgraduates train you up for all sorts of other things too, obviously, but one of their main functions is that, especially if you're looking at something very non-vocational (which covers plenty of Arts MA subjects).

Currently, it's really hard to get to be an academic if you're not from a wealthy or reasonably wealthy background, which means that the people who're teaching and researching come to represent quite a narrow social group. I think this is a real problem. But I wonder if those are people you'd see as paying enough tax to make it worthwhile?

tinybonsai Wed 10-Dec-14 18:00:54

This is really good news for me. There's an MA I'd love to do part-time once DS starts school and while we do have the funds for it, having a loan makes it much easier to cover the cost of fees without digging into savings. I see it very much as a way to explore my own interests, which may or may not lead to higher earnings later in life (but probably not, given the subject area and the fact I'll want to stay part-time whilst the dc are small).

titchy Wed 10-Dec-14 18:21:39

You'll need to be under 30 to be eligible bonsai...

tinybonsai Wed 10-Dec-14 19:06:31

I know, I've read the article smile. Luckily I'll still fit into the age limits when they introduce the loans in 2016, we're quite young to have completed our family already but it was the best option for us and seems to be working out well.

uilen Thu 11-Dec-14 16:24:02

Currently, it's really hard to get to be an academic if you're not from a wealthy or reasonably wealthy background, which means that the people who're teaching and researching come to represent quite a narrow social group.

This is not true in STEMM, as most students do bachelors plus PhD or MEng/MPhys/MChem/MMath plus PhD, with the Mx degrees receiving undergraduate funding and PhD funding available for most students. (If you can't get STEMM PhD funding you should probably ask yourself whether you should be doing a PhD.) In my experience rather few people from wealthy or reasonably wealthy backgrounds go into STEMM research as they prefer to go into better paid jobs.

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 11-Dec-14 17:12:47

I apologize, I was thinking mostly about Arts and Humanities, you're right.

That said, my friend is a foster child and once showed me the stats for foster children getting PhDs in any subject. They are dismal - partly because I think there is often an expectation, even in STEM, that you have some financial family support.

uilen Thu 11-Dec-14 18:04:20

I don't think finance is an issue - perhaps it is more about expectations? I.e. people from some backgrounds don't consider the option of doing research.

For the original question: I think it is good that funding for postgraduate work (particularly for arts and humanities) is becoming available. I would however prefer it to be made available in the form of scholarships and bursaries for high achieving students, rather than as loans without reference to undergraduate achievement. The issue with the latter is that some universities may try to expand their postgrad programmes, seeing them as "cash cows", and encourage students to do postgrad qualifications which won't help them in the job market, but many of the students are also unlikely to be strong enough to get PhD funding or to be able to continue in academia.

To some extent this is what happened 15-20 years ago when STEMM courses added the option a fourth year to get an Mx degree rather than a BSc.

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 11-Dec-14 18:17:34

How can finance possibly not be an issue? confused If you can't afford food and a roof over your head for two months between finishing undergrad and starting a postgrad (and getting a two-month job is not easy), of course it'll be about finance for you.

But I agree with you it'd be better if this were funding based on academic merit rather than an open system.

titchy Thu 11-Dec-14 18:19:29

That's a good point uilen - although the criteria for the PG loan may make reference to degree classification, we just don't know yet. There is also the possibility that the lower end of PG fees will rise so that £10k becomes the minimum.

Incidentally why do you use the acronym STEMM - what's the 2nd M for?

dapoxen Thu 11-Dec-14 19:20:55

I'm an STEMM (2nd M=medicine) academic from a working class background. Not just first in family to go to university but first (and to date only...) person to pass O level (or equivalent) Maths. (Lack of) finance hasn't been an issue. I filled the gap between undergrad & starting my PhD with casual work (factories & bars). In fact not being from a wealthy background was probably an advantage for happily living off a postgrad grant and then postdoc salary. Both of which were a lot less generous then than they are now.

But I do agree that there is an issue with the large fraction of academics who come from middle class backgrounds, and the significant number who even have academics as parents. I agree with uilen that the underlying issue is probably expectations. My parents didn't (and still don't...) understand the academic career path, and would have liked me to persue a more conventional, less uncertain, career. i.e. 'You're good at maths, why don't you want to become an accountant?'

NoLongerJustAShopGirl Thu 11-Dec-14 19:27:34

Classic advantage of a Civil service job - support through Masters and PhD. Go to uni, apply for CS, work for 2/3 years then go for it.. whilst being paid.

uilen Thu 11-Dec-14 19:29:50

The second M is for medicine. STEMM is increasingly commonly used in UK universities instead of STEM.

Most students can go to their parents for a couple of months and get a summer job of some kind before starting postgrad. (Even if they aren't starting a postgrad degree, many won't have jobs immediately after finishing their degree and will go home to parents while job seeking.) For a student who doesn't have a home to go to, not only are there benefits but there are also funds set aside by universities to help. Plus there are often paid intern projects for the summer vacations, precisely for students who are in between undergrad and postgrad. Again, I think finance can almost always be sorted for STEMM students, with the support of academic tutors telling them all the places to apply.

uilen Thu 11-Dec-14 19:34:19

My parents didn't (and still don't...) understand the academic career path, and would have liked me to pursue a more conventional, less uncertain, career.

As an academic I don't particularly want my children to follow an academic career path (conditions are getting worse and worse) - I would prefer them to go for better paid, less uncertain careers although if they want to be academics I will obviously support them and help them as much as I can.

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 11-Dec-14 19:36:45

Oh, I'm sorry - I didn't notice the second M and dropped it in my post. blush

But, the reason I referred to the experiences of foster children is because they don't necessarily have homes to go to, uilen.

And none of this solves the problem for Arts/Hums (but then, that's where we came into this ...).

Bonsoir Thu 11-Dec-14 22:49:48

Masters degrees are a bit of a minefield. Quite a lot of them are cash-cows that leverage a brand (Eg LSE) and allow wealthy foreigners to say they studied there while offering little added value outside the encounters with fellow students.

Tron123 Thu 11-Dec-14 23:02:11

I think that we have ended up with a situation where there are too many undergraduate students and little support, they should cut the number going to do first degrees but fund them this way it would release money to also fund post graduate degrees. Too many students leave university with a qualification that does not help them in the job market

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 11-Dec-14 23:32:28

Mmm. I am not sure I agree with the specific example of LSE, bonsoir. One of my brothers teaches at LSE and the other has just finished his masters there (and immediately got a good job from it), and I know from both of them that LSE marsters can be very worthwhile. TBF you may be thinking of a bad experience that's just as valid as my anecdata.

I think I agree with tron. But I don't think making it more expensive for students will ever be a fair way to cut numbers, whatever level it's at. What's needed is funding into making the alternatives good value for employers, IMO.

JeanneDeMontbaston Thu 11-Dec-14 23:32:59

(It would help if I didn't spell masters phonetically. I know.)

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