Wednesday 10 th December Session K 14.15-16.15
Programme number: K7.4
Research Domain: Student Experiences
University of Kent, United Kingdom
Diffrentiation in Higher Education: postgraduate perspectives and speculations (0372)
When the UK Government introduced a fee level at the point of entry for Home students on undergraduate programmes, the debate was focused upon widening participation into higher education. That debate was to be settled empirically but the aspect of the intervention tending to be overlooked was the effect on access to postgraduate study for those shouldering greater debt and unable to pay it off at this stage. There has been for a long time a semi-market in postgraduate programme fees. Research council funded research students are a small minority. Most find other means of support and many choose the part-time study option. Fees for part-time study have for a long time varied across the sector, where less popular institutions' subject areas see the need to loss-lead to ensure a critical mass of research-active individuals. Since the mid-1990s, the research councils have shifted resources relatively into research degree programmes and away from taught masters programmes, making it harder to study at higher degree level in subjects less "jobmarketable", and making more room for fee levels above economic cost for more jobmarketable programmes. And all this is without considering the International postgraduate student dimension, concerning which there has been more variation in fee levels, tending towards an implicit "cash cow" policy to hold up the postgraduate infrastructure of institutions.
Overall, the situation within the postgraduate domain is and has been highly complex, but the increasing market trend, strengthened by the non-market action of the research councils, sees higher fee levels and higher proportions of International postgraduates and others who can find the financial means, concentrated in Russell Group institutions rather than elsewhere. This presentation responds to the symposium by providing a perspective on this situation via HESA data and a snap survey of the student experience.