Autumn statement: good news for students

Piggy Bank

The government's long-awaited olive branch to students ? Proposed £10,000 loans to increase access to post-graduate study, regardless of personal wealth

In the Chancellor’s autumn report there was good news for students. A government-backed loan system for those wanting to pursue academia to post graduate level was revealed, offering much wider access to further education.

Up until now students wishing to pursue their education to post graduate level either had to bag sponsorship which was highly competitive or take on personal debt through often risky credit cards, payday loans or overdrafts with huge commercial interest rates. Now they will be able to get a £10,000 loan to pay for their tuition which will be payable concurrently with undergraduate loans.

Osborne purported that the current cost of study ‘deters bright students from poorer backgrounds’ from accessing post graduate courses. But it isn’t just the ‘poor’ that are affected. Those already in upwards of £30,000 of debt are unlikely to want to fork out another £10,000 of their own money, up-front to continue their studies, whatever their economic background. Postgraduate study without help is just not a feasible option for many young people, not just the ‘poor’. The NUS describe it as a ‘major step in the right direction’ with the proposals, implemented in 2016 only being available to those under the age of thirty.

The Chancellor’s decision comes after a very rocky few years of student-governmental relationships. The enormous increase of tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 in 2012 by most universities has meant students are now crippled with debt before even leaving University. Unsurprisingly, since the raise of tuition costs, the UK has seen a sharp decline in those going on to postgraduate study.

This tuition fee raise coupled with higher graduate competition and a general desire to ‘up-skill’ the UK’s workforce, it seems the government were put under increased pressure to offer some financial aid or incentive to those students considering post graduate study.

With higher competition from elsewhere in the globe particularly amongst the fastest growing economies such as China and India there is a noted push to increase the UK’s graduates ‘global edge.’ With a much more global workforce and more students than ever considering doing their full degree abroad it is unsurprising the UK government has taken steps to help the best and brightest UK students get access to higher education ‘at home.’

There are also advantages for the economy; statistics show those who have completed a Master’s earn 14% more than their undergraduate counterparts. With more and more professions now seeking postgraduate study as a prerequisite to the job it would be wholly inexplicable if the government failed to help some of our brightest students, already in five figure debts, access the education they need.

Perhaps the Chancellor’s proposals are the long awaited olive branch from the government who turned their back on the body of now indebted and disappointed students. Being entirely sceptical the looming general election and a promised return ‘boost’ to the economy sees a perhaps hidden agenda to this so-called ‘helping hand.’ However, regardless of the motivations it is clear that this mutually beneficial scheme will truly help those brilliant and bright students to pursue their education to the highest level, without the barriers of personal wealth standing in their way.