Loans for PhD students

posted
17-Dec-17, 17:32
edited about 21 seconds later
by bignige
Avatar for bignige
posted about 2 years ago
Hi everyone,

I have read about a new loan which is due to come into being next year for PhD students - which I believe is a maximum of £25,000 and applies to either full or part-time study?

I understand that they are only repayable once you earn at least £21K per annum and then you pay back 6% of your income per annum?

What do people think about these loans - would you take one to fund a PhD where you have no other access to funding?

I believe that they are open to anyone aged up to 59 years of age - surely offering loans to people of that age is morally/ethically wrong as someone of that age is unlikely to work long enough to repay £25,000 back at 6% of income per annum?

Someone I know mentioned these loans and argued the above and also commented why he "as a taxpayer" should be funding loans that in some cases will never be repaid...

What do people think?

N
posted
17-Dec-17, 19:11
edited about 13 minutes later
by helebon
Avatar for helebon
posted about 2 years ago
Hi,

I think the PhD loans are ok, it doesn't really bother me to think the loan might not be fully paid back. Research needs to continue in the UK.

Yes, I would take a loan, if the situation was I could get a RC fully funded PhD in a subject I wasn't inspired about or go to a better university and do the PhD only with a loan, in a subject I was fascinated in I would choose the loan option.

I think of all those graduates who did their undergraduate degree for free years ago and some got a maintenance grant, all funded by the government and taxpayer. Times have changed.

I'm sure I read it's when the PhD graduate is earning over £25k (students starting in 2018) the loan begins to be repaid, the interest is added from day one of the PhD course.
posted
17-Dec-17, 19:23
by bignige
Avatar for bignige
posted about 2 years ago
Hi helebon

I asked the question as I am thinking of applying for one of the loans - and a family member gave me a proper grilling saying it was all wrong because at 56 years of age and studying part-time for 6 years I would never repay the loan - and that the money was "taxpayers money" provided by the likes of him and his wife as working people.

Pretty much using the age old analogy of people "on the dole" who have never worked and have no intention of working and who are parasites and squandering taxpayers' money...

And further he commented that I would not even be doing the PhD to further my career but was only looking to do it for my "own personal reasons".

I found it quite upsetting to be honest and struggled to come up with a reasoned answer in reponse.

N
posted
17-Dec-17, 19:44
edited about 12 minutes later
by Pjlu
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 2 years ago
Hi Nige,

People are always going to have their opinions and these are:
1 Informed by their own personal and cultural life experiences and values
2 Often not going to agree with yours
3 Not necessarily be correct (or wrong) just different

I don't think the moral argument that your family member makes is necessarily accurate but it is understandable. Helebon's point about research needing to continue is a good one. Research is an important contributor to intellectual, scientific and cultural capital and it relies on the postgraduate research student and academic as much as it does on big business and other funding bodies. We need a range of people and bodies to research matters and generate ideas-intellectual freedom depends on this as much as anything.

If you legitimately qualify for this loan (according to the rules outlined), have looked into where it will place you financially, and believe you can manage this and are willing to pay the costs and you dearly wish to do a doctoral study then this decision is yours to make, not that of your family member.
posted
17-Dec-17, 19:45
by helebon
Avatar for helebon
posted about 2 years ago
Hi N

It would work out 4k a year, £25k over six years and it's for research. Part-time uni PhD fees are £2k a year (may-be more), so that's 50% of the loan gone on uni fees. Your research might benefit someone or something in the future. I think that's very different to being on the dole.

You might be able to pick up some charity funding during the PhD and then you might not need the full £25k loan.
posted
17-Dec-17, 20:32
by bignige
Avatar for bignige
posted about 2 years ago
Thank you helebon and piju for the supportive comments.

I was quite shocked at what was said to me to be honest.

I did make the point that I have paid more than my fair share of taxes over the year in some relatively high paid jobs.

I think what riled him was the fact that at my age I would be unlikely to be doing the PhD to further my career and that is correct - I am wanting to do the PhD primarily to complete my academic education, for the intellectual stimulation that studying (which I enjoy) will bring and last but not least to become an expert in my field of study.

I did also point out that even if I did not undertake the PhD I could quite conceivably still be working at 70 (particularly as I run my own business) and earning above the £25K threshold and therefore repaying at least part of the loan.

In point of fact I would not need the full £25K - part-time fees over 6 years would be c. £12K. I can support myself and my family through my work (which has supported them for the past 5 years) which I intend to continue with - and in continuing to work,I will be continuing to pay taxes myself!

I asked the family member up to what age he would suggest the loans should be available (they are available for anyone up to 59 years of age) and he replied "25 or so" which is ridiculous in my mind as some people will not have even attained a Masters by that age (including me as I was (along with a whole cohort of colleagues) 33 when I got my Masters)).

Maths is not my strong point but I have read that the average salary for a London-based PhD graduate is £47,500 - so it would take someone on that salary around 9 years to repay £25k at 6% per annum?

And I would suspect that for many PhD graduates £47,500 salary is optimistic?

N
posted
18-Dec-17, 01:34
Avatar for chaotic1328
posted about 2 years ago
Not sure about London based PhDs, but the average salary of PhDs in this country is certainly nowhere near the 47K mark.
posted
18-Dec-17, 07:55
by bignige
Avatar for bignige
posted about 2 years ago
Hi Chaotic

This is the source ref London PhD salaries:


N
posted
18-Dec-17, 23:20
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for fredminxis75
posted about 2 years ago
PhDs earn about the same as Master's.

My major worry with the PhD loans is hypothetical in a way, that loans will corrode the number of fully funded scholarships in the future, especially university scholarships. The effects could be felt across all kinds of universities, or at non-research intensives, depending on the economic climate. Many well qualified, but debt-ridden graduates, and those graduates from disadvantaged economic backgrounds, may be turned off postgraduate research because of further increasing their debt. One can argue however that PhD loans opens up and widens access to postgraduate research, but for me this is at a high cost. Postgraduate research, like undergraduate education, could become framed as a personal investment rather than also a public investment. Equally, access to academia and research related professions could become even more difficult for those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds given the loss of, or squeezing on, fully-funded scholarships. Given that having a PhD does not boost earnings any more than a Master does, PhD debt will be quite a burden.
Moving from the hypothetical point, the loans were brought into service because the government saw unmet demand for PhDs, both from employers and from prospective students. The demand seems to be from STEM employers, although fully funded opportunities are more abundant here and which, along with the cost of high bench fees, mean that there will be few STEM PhDs utilising loans. Whilst the government talk about boosting industrial productivity through postgraduate research loans, this is not going to happen unless they pay-up on STEM PhD funding.
Instead, the loans I think will be associated with Social Science and Arts and Humanities PhDs, a place where funding is harder to come by, the academic job market is over-saturated, and in my opinion where direct links to industrial productivity are more esoteric. As I mentioned earlier, those with PhDs, on average, do not out-earn Masters. This means there will be people who take years to pay off a PhD loan, and a few not ever paying back.
posted
19-Dec-17, 00:30
Avatar for chaotic1328
posted about 2 years ago
Quote From bignige:
Hi Chaotic

This is the source ref London PhD salaries:


N


I would take that data with a large pinch of salt, until they give more details of their methodology and sampling techniques. Not sure I would trust the data of a relatively unknown job website. According to them, the average PhD in Cambridge earns 70K....Are they suggesting that lowly lecturers and post-doc teaching assistants and researchers (From both Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin) are earning anywhere near that sort of money?
posted
19-Dec-17, 15:50
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 2 years ago
Well, look at it this way, the starting salary for a postdoc in a university is ~£30k. Postdocs in Kew Gardens were recently advertised for £32k.

Lecturers earn a minimum of £38k at my uni.

I'd love to meet a fresh PhD graduate on £47k. Hopefully they will bring their flying pig with them when I do.
posted
19-Dec-17, 18:05
edited about 2 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 years ago
I wouldn't worry about your family member's comment... no need to work out how much you'll earn / when you'll pay it back etc just so that you can justify it to him/her. That is one of the things that taxpayers money is for*... and it goes toward enriching society ... directly, indirectly, in many ways - whether it is paid back or not. Sounds like your family member was just having a dig... let them dig away I say, and you what you want to do. We are very lucky to live in a country where, at present, such things are available.

Also food for thought - if postgraduate education was to become free (or substantially cheaper) - it would still be costing the tax payer all the same (except it wouldn't be repaid). At present, it gets repaid (in theory). So maybe tell him to be grateful!

*our money - most of us pay tax at some point and for a large part of our lives
posted
19-Dec-17, 18:50
edited about 8 seconds later
by bignige
Avatar for bignige
posted about 2 years ago
"if postgraduate education was to become free (or substantially cheaper) - it would still be costing the tax payer all the same (except it wouldn't be repaid). At present, it gets repaid (in theory)..."

Good point Tudor Queen. Back in my day (1983 for me - lol) all first degrees were funded by local authority grants which were not repayable. Parents had to contribute if their disposable income exceeded a particular level.

Likewise, my Masters' fees were funded by the tax payer and not repayable (1993).

Even if I took one of the new loans I would still need to work for the whole 6 years (part-time) to support myself and my family, and will still therefore be paying tax. A £25K loan will not cover the entire cost of a part-time PhD - even one which is in the social sciences.

The real cheek of my family member was when he referred to him and his wife being tax payers subsidising the PhD loans - when I know for a fact that his wife, although she works, does not earn enough to pay tax!

N
posted
20-Dec-17, 19:52
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 years ago
Ha! Family eh?

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