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Funding initiative set to remove barriers to postgraduate study

Posted on 9 December 2013

Students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, looking to study at the University of York and five other universities are set to secure support in their postgraduate studies thanks to a grant award of nearly £3m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The funding follows a successful consortium bid led by the University of Sheffield, involving the universities of York, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Warwick, who will now match fund the award to create a total of over £5m. The six institutions will spend this on initiatives to attract and support disadvantaged students into postgraduate education.

The funding is part of £25m aimed at increasing access to postgraduate education to be distributed to universities and colleges as part of HEFCE’s Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS). Completing a postgraduate degree has been shown to increase social mobility and play a crucial part in creating a skilled workforce.

At the University of York, the grant will be used to boost take-up of students studying taught postgraduate programmes, particularly among under-represented groups such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds, mature students and people with caring responsibilities, with pilot products starting from 2014.

These will include new financial support packages for postgraduates, such as scholarships and career development loans, as well as new academic products to encourage and enable graduates to enter postgraduate study with a focus on higher-level skills and their post-study professions.

The cash will also help fund targeted interventions including information, advice and guidance to promote and facilitate entry to postgraduate study.   Work will take place to establish an evidence-based understanding of which groups are under-represented in postgraduate study and why, drawing on sources of data which are uniquely available to the institutions involved. These findings will be used as a benchmark for evaluating the success of the interventions.

Dr Jane Grenville, Acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, said: “We are very pleased to be part of this important initiative. It will enable institutions to develop a better understanding of the constraints and barriers to progression to postgraduate studies, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as providing financial support for their studies.  As a world leader in the generation and transmission of knowledge, we attach great importance to social inclusion and it is one of the major objectives of the University Plan.

“We are extremely pleased that Dr Paul Wakeling, a Senior Lecturer in Education at York, who is an expert on access to postgraduate study, is leading the research that will underpin the project.”

This project will enable us to assess in detail the demand for postgraduate courses from different groups of graduates

Dr Paul Wakeling

Dr Wakeling has conducted research into inequalities in access to postgraduate study, including most recently a report on Transition to Higher Degrees in the UK for the Higher Education Academy. The report’s co-author, Dr Gillian Hampden-Thompson, Reader in Education at the University of York, will also be involved in the new project.

Dr Wakeling said: “There is much that we do not currently know about entry to taught postgraduate degrees. This project will enable us to assess in detail the demand for postgraduate courses from different groups of graduates. We will also investigate the motivations of the large group of graduates who come back to university for a postgraduate qualification after a break from their studies. This group represents the majority of postgraduates but we currently know very little about their academic, employment and family backgrounds.”

Dr Wakeling has also been engaged by HEFCE and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to identify and advise on emergent findings from the portfolio of 20 projects to be funded by HEFCE under the Postgraduate Support Scheme.

Business and industry supporters of the bid included DLA Piper, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Santander and Rolls Royce.

Notes to editors:

  • The Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS).

Following the outcome of the scheme in 2015, the Government has also pledged to invest an additional £50m in removing financial or cultural barriers to participation in postgraduate education.

Postgraduate students at 40 universities will receive support through the HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme, a £25m programme to test models for supporting progression into taught postgraduate courses in England. The scheme aims to ensure the continued success of taught postgraduate education by working with universities and employers to enable participation from students who may not otherwise progress to this level.

The 20 successful projects involve a range of support activities including financial and pastoral support, mentoring and networking, funded studentships, work placements and a variety of bursary and loan schemes.

The projects were recommended by a panel chaired by Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, and including members of HEFCE’s Strategic Advisory Committees, as well as representatives from the UK Council for Graduate Education and the National Union of Students.

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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