‘Older’ postgrads miss out on £10,000 loan

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Graduation day at the Anglican Cathedral 2010 © LJMU

Graduation day at the Anglican Cathedral 2010 © LJMU

Student loans of up to £10,000 will soon be offered to postgraduate students to support their studies on condition they are under 30.

A new system for masters degrees was announced last week in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, almost 60% of all postgraduate students are already over the age of 25 when they enter study.

Those who wish to return to university and study a postgraduate programme over the age of 30 will not receive financial support.

Liam O’Toole, a recent postgraduate at Edge Hill University, said that rather than being encouraged students will be put off by the extra debt on top of undergraduate fees.

He told JMU Journalism: “My initial thought was that it is a step in the right direction. However, the way I see the education system at the minute is almost like getting a mortgage to improve your chances of getting a job.

“Education is power and most governments fear an educated society. If fees and loans increase to an extortionate level, then you put off a lot of people who don’t want to be burdened with that amount of debt.

“The age limit suggests to me that the government would prefer people who have already left university to carry on working, rather than either re-entering education, or leaving work to be educated.”

Michael Gunn, chair of the Million+ group of universities, said that the announcement would help to reverse a decline in postgraduate study. But he opposes the age limit, calling for the loans to be “extended to all who want to study for postgraduate qualifications”.

The government-backed loans, worth up to £10,000, will be available from 2016 and could be available to up to 40,000 students. An extra 10,000 students are expected to be brought into postgraduate study once the changes have come into effect.

Deputy President of University of Liverpool’s student union, James Coe, believes it is a step in the right direction but expressed concern over the increasing debt.

He said: “I personally am not convinced that mounting more debt on students, and creating a wider tax burden, is the most sustainable way to fund higher education.

“Postgraduate loans will also mean students will be in more debt – and as students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to earn less after graduating than students from more advantaged areas, they will end up paying off more loan due to interest rates.”

About Stephanie Bewley, JMU Journalism