Postgrad P*sstake

Greg Wolfman tells The Tab about the ludicrous cost of postgraduate courses

No matter how it is dressed up, tuition fees for postgraduate studies have trebled.

Amid all the fussing about undergraduate tuition fees, everyone has neglected to talk about the shocking rise in postgraduate fees.

Undoubtedly, the Department for Business and Skills has been quite happy the undergraduate situation has hidden this until now.

Taught postgraduate tuition fees in the social sciences range from around £4,000 for one year to £20,000 for two years (at Bristol, for example, they are around £5,500).

Whilst £4,000 does not seem like very much, especially in comparison to the £9,000 paid each year for three years by current undergraduates, it is a lot more when you factor in the government provides zero financial assistance.

If you’re seeking financial support, general wisdom says you should forget about it unless you’re averaging marks in at least the mid-70s.

Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors from a variety of universities have spoken to The Guardian to express their fear at the lack of funding. They revealed taught master’s degrees are no longer to receive any funding from research councils, while a staggering 47% of research master’s degrees are set to lose all funding. Even 20% of PhD funding is to disappear.

Bristol’s V-C didn’t sign the recent Guardian letter

Eric Thomas, our own esteemed vice-chancellor (and beneficiary of a well-deserved £282,000 a year), was not a signatory.

The statistics on this year’s university applications have been fairly telling: the small drop in the number of people applying has had no significant impact on those worse off, since they understand how the system works.

The number of British students in taught postgraduate degrees has dropped by 4% from the 2010-2011 intake.

The challenge this represents to social mobility is concerning.

Indeed, a postgraduate degree is becoming increasingly more valuable in the jobs market, as more and more people take degrees.

Yet when the door is only open to the people whose parents can afford to pay up to £10,000 per year, something is seriously wrong.

What concerns me most is the lack of awareness on this.

Why aren’t there students protesting about this sorrier state of affairs? Why has there been no Commons debate? Why has the e-petition on this only got 26 signatures?

Post-grad fees haven’t attracted the attention of protesters as much as under-grad fees
Photo: Matt Baldry

It’s nice to see the issue becoming salient in the manifestos of NUS president candidates. But naturally, the government’s only response is they are “monitoring the situation”.

This is then followed with an example of a technology investment they have recently made – as if it’s remotely relevant to the issue – which translates as something like “it’s not a priority” or “we don’t care right now”.

Cue the usual line of recession, no money and limited funding.

The issue of postgraduate fees is looming. As soon as it comes into popular consciousness, expect to hear about it far more often.

No one needs to tell you if you make something expensive, and do not provide some funding for it, only the richest can and will buy it – that’s true because it has to be. And if we’re talking about caviar, then so be it. But we’re not, we’re talking about education.

When education is open only to those who can afford it, in contrast to recent history when it was open to all, something tells me that, somewhere, somehow, we’ve taken a huge step backwards.