Not sure if any of you spent your lunch-break watching the UK Budget announcement yesterday (I don't recommend it) but you may have heard that the Chancellor slipped in a little announcement about student loans for PhDs.
Very little info available so far, but we've put together a primer on what there is over at FindAPhD:
Yes I saw this... I don't think it's a great idea, except for maybe non-science students where funding is very difficult to acquire. We don't need more PhDs - what's the point in people gaining skills when they can't use them because there's very few high skilled jobs available and the general employers don't value them anyway???
Also, £25k is not going to fund someone for 3-4 years so where does the rest of the money come from??
Difficult to say until more info' becomes available.
The budget documents do confirm that loans can be taken on in addition to existing funding. Though that may beg a few questions itself.
We need to know what (if anything) this means for existing research funding, eg whether any funding will be cut in favour of the loans. I'm not in favour of loan-based education and as TreeofLife says, the loan wouldn't be enough and would have to be supplemented by some other income anyway.
Quote from the budget: " However, demand for individuals with doctorates is outstripping supply, both in the UK and internationally".
Data claims to be taken from here
Obviously I haven't read the whole article but I don't see much evidence of this - rather it seems to focus on differences in pay and abilities between people with undergrad degrees and those with postgrad degrees
Yes, subject areas aren't specified either - for that claim (or, ineed, for the loans).
The Masters loans are currently entering a consultation phase. It's possible that more info on these research loans will emerge from that, but the legislation doesn't look like it's going to go through in this parliament.
Crazy. And when the individual is unable to pay back on these loans? What happens then, does the taxpayer foot the bill. How will that benefit the UK economy? The pressure on the student would be awful.
Hmmm. Not sure. First thoughts. Total marketisation of education. Convince employers candidates need qualifications (the quote about needing more PhD's!)- see NVQ's as a more basic but strikingly similar example...like you really need an NVQ 2 in cleaning to work as a cleaner! Do you really need a PhD to teach etc. Get people paying for qualifications you've convinced them they need, even better get them in debt for them, more interest payments!. My worry, studentships will decrease and rather than increasing equality of access poorer students will be buried under a debt mountain bigger than a mortgage! Their new higher salaries (if they can get one) leads to a lower take home pay after loan deductions so they'll still not be earning the same as those that can afford a PhD without debt. Oh and banks will make more money off their debt but their outgoings will mean they prob won't pass affordability testing for future loans and mortgages.
Is this to offer funding for people pursuing PhDs who have not found a funded PhD or is the loan model meant to replace bursary funded PhDs as offered by charities and the research councils?
This may be for now a rhetorical question as I'm suspicious of the statement "These new loans will be available in addition to existing forms of PhD funding and will be designed to compliment support from research councils, universities and industry."
It would be good if on reaching Year 4 (as most us did, have done or will do), a loan could be obtained to pay the bills whilst we finish writing up. However, I have strong opinions about loan funding for higher education in general (i.e. I'm opposed to it) and sense possible creep towards loan funding being the standard model for all UK post-grad education.
The statement you've quoted is based on the Budget documents - part of the consultation process will involve working with 'research councils, universities and industry to examine how best to design them [the new loans] so that they compliment existing funding streams and continue to support the most excellent research.'
There's plenty we could extrapolate from that (and from other parts of the announcement) but it looks like we'll have to wait for the details.
Speaking *entirely for myself* here, I agree that a broad shift from public funding to personal debt would be concerning.
I wouldn't take out a loan for my 4th year even if it was offered. I've managed to scrape by spending £700pm for the past 8 months and I'd rather that than get into debt that will take years to pay back.
Another thing that occurred to me is that it'll be interesting to see whether PhDs funded by these loans will be seen as 'funded' or 'self-funded'. The way I see it, if you get a funded PhD just now, the topic is usually pre-determined to a certain extent (I have heard people comment that some funded PhDs are basically used as a cheap way of getting work done that should actually have been done by a research assistant, although my experience has been much better than this). With a self-funded PhD, there's more of an expectation that you can set your own topic, as long as someone is willing to supervise it. I would hope that anyone taking on one of these loans would at the very least get the freedom that goes along with being self-funded.
I agree with the comments that for all intents and purposes it is a creep towards self funded education. Chickpea that's an excellent point. If we take loans out to undertake research projects already dreamt up by Depts and supervisors people will actually be paying to work! Again much like self funded NVQ- you do free work exp that's a requirement of the course and also pay course fees - why you do it- you can't get paid employment without the NVQ!
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