Russell Group universities criticise postgraduate loan cap

Russell Group universities have criticised the age restriction the government is set to place on postgraduate loans, which will see those over the age of 30 miss out on the extra funding.

In December 2014, the government announced that postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 will become available to Masters students in 2016-17, but only for students below the age of 30.

Now leading institutions are saying that the government should reconsider the age cap, with investigations being undertaken by the Universities of Leeds, York, Manchester, Sheffield, Warwick and Newcastle to ensure fair access to postgraduate education.

In a report produced by the Universities, it was claimed that the assumption that students over 30 are more financially capable is incorrect and misleading, highlighting that students above this age tended not to have a strong financial position.

“Those who chose to return or progress at age 30 and above often had widening participation characteristics”

The report also stated that “those who chose to return [to education] or progress at age 30 and above often had widening participation characteristics – such as a disability, were a former care leaver, [or] had caring responsibilities”.

Obtaining funding for postgraduate courses has often been labelled difficult, with George Osborne stating that this “deters bright students from poorer backgrounds”, reflecting findings that 92% of unsuccessful scholarship applicants saw finance as a crucial barrier.

“If the government wants to increase those undertaking a Masters degree, do not discriminate by age”

Second year Economics student, Jessica Hickman, told Impact: “It does not make any logical sense to exclude students over the age of 30. If the government wants to increase those undertaking a Masters degree, then do not discriminate by age”.

From a similar perspective, Hugo Whittaker – a second year studying French, Spanish and Portuguese – stated: “My aunt is currently doing a Masters. It was incredibly difficult for her to get funding”.

He added: “I know that these loans would have benefitted her, but with her being over the age restriction, there’s no opportunity for that. It’s simply unfair”.

However, second year Ancient History and Archaeology student, Floss Binks, said: “I think the prospect of another loan, atop an undergraduate loan, is the real deterrent for disadvantaged students, no matter what age. That is what we should be discussing”.

The Russell Group institutions hope that the introduction of the new loans for postgraduate study will be reconsidered and altered to reflect their findings.

Kayleigh Fletcher

Image: Got Credit via Flickr

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