>The NUS launches campaign to lobby the government to support postgraduate taught students

On Wednesday 18 April, UWESU President, Colin Offler, visited parliament along with other delegates from different universities around the country, to lobby the government about the hidden costs of Higher Education, as a part of the National Union of Students’ ‘Come Clean Campaign’.

The main aim of the day was to ‘educate MPs on important issues’ and to make them aware of what impact the current issues have on students, such as hidden course costs, fee waivers and access to postgraduate study.

With student debt predicted to reach levels of around £40,000, the NUS deems postgraduate study as being under ‘serious threat’. Therefore, UWE Students’ Union, as well as other unions across the country are responding to the NUS’ campaign and calling on the government to support postgraduate taught students. The campaign is to lobby the government to create a student loans system for postgraduates, so students do not have to pay the extortionate fees upfront.

The UWESU President states: “The lack of funds prizes people out of reaching their full potential and going on to postgraduate study. They may well be academically capable, but because they don’t have financial backing, they often find they are unable to gain access to further their education and job prospects.”

In a letter addressed to UWE’s Vice Chancellor, Steve West, Colin Offler states: “UWESU believes that this is fundamentally unfair and that one’s ability to pay upfront fees should not be a factor in whether or not one can access postgraduate study.”

Mr West has therefore signed a statement, written by the SU President, in support of improved access for students across the UK who are wanting to go on to study at postgraduate level.

Financing an extra year of study can prove extremely difficult. Grants and bursaries are proving limited, with directgov.org encouraging students to: ‘Apply as early as possible because there’s lots of competition for postgraduate funding’.

With tuition fees varying for studying a Masters degree, students would typically look at paying around £4000 to £5000 in tuition fees for the year.

Students therefore often seek a Personal Career Development Loan, where applicants are limited to borrowing a maximum of £10,000 for the year. A PCDL is to cover not only tuition fees, but living expenses as well. This specialised lending is provided by the Co-operative Bank and Barclays at 9.9%, which is triple the current RPI-linked rate on undergraduate loans. There are benefits to the loan, such as no repayments are due until after the course has finished. However, when it comes to repaying the PCDL, students can look at paying back around £210 a month over a five year period if they have been lent the maximum amount.

Final year student, Tom Renhard, who is looking at going on to study at postgraduate level next year states: “I personally believe that there needs to be an introduction of a support system that enables and empowers students to remain in education past undergraduate and realise their true potential. I think it’s such an important issue.”

Jenny Pearce, a current undergraduate student at UWE states: “I think it is a little harsh of the government to not offer a student loan for postgraduates when people will soon be paying triple fees. [It] makes you question where the money is going, as it seems not [to be going] into education itself.”

Despite the current situation for postgraduate study looking almost as bleak as finding a job after university, Jenny continues: “I am definitely considering taking a Masters as one of my future options, and I am personally not going to let a poor background ruin my study, as there are plenty of ways of getting around it.”