PhD Loans Confirmed

posted
17-Mar-16, 10:17
by Mark_B
« Moderator »
Avatar for Mark_B
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Folks

Just a heads up: Yesterday's Budget confirmed PhD loans of £25,000 for English students without Research Council funding, beginning 2018-19.

As usual, we've got the details (such as they are) over at FindAPhD:
Bit of a mixed reaction around the internet - what do you guys think? Will these make much difference to your study decisions? Would they have if they were available when you started?

Interesting to hear what current / prospective PhDs actually think of these funding changes.

Mark
posted
17-Mar-16, 11:07
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
Bad idea for science. Now people will get into even more debt and there will be more people with PhDs competing for jobs. And a 9% repayment rate? Bit steep. People will try to survive on the whole 4 years of a PhD with £25k for living expenses. That's going to be fun when your lab mate with funding next door gets more than twice that.

Of course labs will start advertising PhDs with no fees to pay (great!), but no stipend either (not so great), to make PhDs look affordable - cheap labour for the labs.

It will probably also create a division between people with funding and people without, with the latter looked upon less favourably, like they weren't good enough to get funding.
posted
17-Mar-16, 11:42
edited about 57 seconds later
Avatar for HazyJane
posted about 4 years ago
Bad idea all round. It sends off the message that a PhD is worth investing in as a career move when in reality there are only subgroups of people for whom that is true. It is a questionable enough decision to do an unfunded PhD, but to actively take on debt...not good.

And yes, from the academia side of things, I don't think the impact will be good. Disincentives unis finding funding, but also I can see scenarios where people hit year 3 and are struggling to complete due to financial pressures. How did they come up with the £25K figure anyway - totally arbitrary.

As always, I would never recommend anyone does a *full time* PhD without funding. Part time is different for a number of reasons.
posted
18-Mar-16, 09:59
edited about 25 seconds later
by Mark_B
« Moderator »
Avatar for Mark_B
posted about 4 years ago
Some good points.

It'll be interesting to see what the specific eligibility criteria end up being for part-time students. You'd expect them to be eligible - particularly if the loans end up supplementing a 'portfolio' funding approach.

The £25,000 figure is interesting. It's not even clearly proportional to the £10,000 available for a Masters. It also bears no clear relation to the Research Council stipend it presumably works to offset the lack of (or replace..).

Personally, I think there's something to be said for the option being there. But the concern has to be the effect on existing funding and the academic job market.
posted
18-Mar-16, 10:01
edited about 2 minutes later
by Hugh
Avatar for Hugh
posted about 4 years ago
This is very very bad news. This has been introduced so they can reduce student ship funding. Honestly it's a huge disaster.

It's going to create a division in academia where only those with wealthy parents will have access to PhDs
posted
18-Mar-16, 10:13
edited about 15 seconds later
by Mark_B
« Moderator »
Avatar for Mark_B
posted about 4 years ago
We'll have to hope not Hugh.

There's some reason to be positive. The original announcement of the loans in the 2015 budget only made reference to STEM. That did suggest a move to replace or supplant existing funding (few STEM students self-fund). They've since been repositioned as a solution for those without RC funding, with more references made to Arts, Humanities, etc (where self-funding is much more commonplace).

Time will tell..
posted
18-Mar-16, 18:24
Avatar for PracticalMouse
posted about 4 years ago
Personally I think it's a bad thing on so many levels. I think Hugh is right and this will lead to a significant decline in the availability of research council studentships - especially in the Arts where research outcomes may not have an immediately tangible impact or usefulness beyond the personal.

Secondly, the job market for newly minted PhDs is already terrible - do we really need to see an elevated influx of people who might turn to doing a Phd as 'the next logical step' rather than out of a desire to do research? Not to mention the absolutely gargantuan mountain of personal debt this would produce on top of current student loans etc. and the fairly steep repayment conditions. Where would these debt-laden PhDs find employment in the current system of zero hours lecturing and fixed term contracts?

Having said that the amount offered really does not seem very generous - I struggle to see how anyone could survive on that alone for 3-4 years, especially in places like London. What do others think?
posted
19-Mar-16, 11:35
edited about 14 seconds later
by Hugh
Avatar for Hugh
posted about 4 years ago
I just assumed it was £25,000 p/year.
posted
19-Mar-16, 18:30
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 4 years ago
I think it's a dreadful idea. This may be a cynical view of PhDs, but they can be seen as a relatively cheap way of getting some research done. Assuming all goes well during a PhD, you're doing 3-4 years of research, making a contribution in your field, possibly adding to your supervisors' list of publications and making a contribution to your department. The pay-off for the PhD candidate is having basic money to live on and getting a PhD (which may or may not enhance career prospects). I oppose the idea that PhD candidates should effectively pay to do research - as others have mentioned, this is likely to lead to a further skewing of PhD availability in favour of the independently wealthy, and those who do need to take on this loan will need to supplement it with other earnings (if it's £25k for the whole period, as it reads to me).
posted
21-Mar-16, 00:36
edited about 44 seconds later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 4 years ago
Quote From Hugh:
This is very very bad news. This has been introduced so they can reduce student ship funding. Honestly it's a huge disaster.

It's going to create a division in academia where only those with wealthy parents will have access to PhDs


So far, the loans are for STEM students without research council funding. So far...

Quote From Mark_B:
We'll have to hope not Hugh.

There's some reason to be positive. The original announcement of the loans in the 2015 budget only made reference to STEM. That did suggest a move to replace or supplant existing funding (few STEM students self-fund). They've since been repositioned as a solution for those without RC funding, with more references made to Arts, Humanities, etc (where self-funding is much more commonplace).

Time will tell..


As long as there is no reduction in research council funding, it will be another option although not a brilliant one. Anyone taking the loan option will have to top up their income by lab and lecture work, or other part time work and more so than research council-funded people.

However, there was a mutter from a government official about bringing different funding terms into line with each other last year. Might it be that the fees may be paid in the future but the stipend part may instead be a loan in years to come?

However, I am anti-loan (undergrad as well as post-grad) and can't see why this money can't be used to create extra research council places.

It's some years since my stint, however, subjects like this raise my ire enough to post.

Ian
posted
21-Mar-16, 08:45
by satchi
Avatar for satchi
posted about 4 years ago
More people will go into debt, not sure whether it's a wise to get a loan to do a phd when jobs are not guaranteed at the end plus it is not interest free. Also, £25,000 may not be enough.

love satchi
posted
21-Mar-16, 09:39
by Mark_B
« Moderator »
Avatar for Mark_B
posted about 4 years ago
Some very good points made here.

I think Ian's suggestion that this could be indicative of a shift in RC funding is interesting (in a slightly troubling way). The government has already moved undergraduate maintenance grants to loans, after all. I'd probably be more concerned about a move to RC fees + personal loan than I would about RC funding being scrapped wholesale.

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