At the Spending Review, government confirmed its commitment to providing loans of up to £10,000 for English-domiciled (and other EU) postgraduate Masters students from 2016–17.
What’s more, some significant revisions to the original loan proposal mean that a substantially higher number of people will now be able to access financial support as they take up Masters study and develop the high-level skills our economy increasingly needs.
Perhaps most importantly (and most headline-grabbing), is that government has increased the age cap for the loans, making them available to all those under 60 (compared to the original proposal of 30), mirroring eligibility for undergraduate maintenance loans in England.
But there have been more positive developments outside of the age proposal. Further details of how the loan eligibility criteria have expanded since the public consultation are detailed below:
Since the start of the consultation in March, Universities UK had raised three substantive concerns around the proposed loan eligibility criteria. These related to: the age cap; a lack of loan portability across UK borders, and a restriction of loans to students with at least 50% intensity of study. Taking these points in turn:
With widening participation in mind, HEFCE analysis already shows that undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to progress to postgraduate taught study than those from more affluent backgrounds:
It is therefore vital that, as the loan scheme is implemented, levels of demand from under-represented groups are closely monitored.
Time-scales for implementation are tight. In light of this, in the coming months, UUK will be working with BIS, HEFCE and others to ensure that the new loans work to help remove one of the most significant barriers to postgraduate study – access to finance; and work towards ensuring that those with the ambition to take up Masters study are able to do so.