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Government consultation on post-graduate loans suggest age-based criteria

by on March 25, 2015

The press have highlighted a number ways in which the UK government might consider ‘targeting’ loans for post-graduate study in England.  As THE reports the Government have not ruled out restricting student loans to particular subjects.  However it is the age-based criteria that caught my attention.  As the ‘Citizen Space’ consultation website highlights: “For the first time, anyone under age 30 who is eligible and accepted to study a postgraduate taught Master’s course, in any subject, will be able to access an income contingent loan of up to £10,000”.  Anticipating particular discussion related to the age-based restriction, a separate document is available which explains the research carried out to identify the ‘under 30′ as the most appropriate cut-off.

As someone who did not return to post-graduate education until I was quite a bit older than 30 I find their conclusions surprising, and worrying.  Firstly, asking hypothetical questions about how current post-graduate students would feel about funding post-graduate education IF they had had a higher undergraduate loan (ie had incurred the £9k per year undergraduate fees as current students do) can not possibly hope to replicate the ACTUAL situation that many of current undergraduates will find themselves in.  To me it seems not unreasonable to suppose that an increased level of undergraduate debt might significantly impact decisions on postgraduate education – one outcome of which might be to delay the age at which you return to study.

The age bands used for the research also seemed rather confusing with some evidence stating that those up to the age of 33 might benefit from postgraduate loans – it seems that a rather unscientific ’rounding’ has produced the age of 30.

And why AGE anyway?  If the real issue here is financial need, then why not an income or means testing approach?  Here it seems that age is assumed to be an indicator of affluence, which is rather misleading.  Interestingly there is no upper age limit for undergraduate loans for tuition (though you have to be under 60 at the start of the course to qualify for a maintenance loan).  If we see age introduced as a criteria for post-graduate loans then I would be concerned this would set a precedent for extending this to undergraduate provision.

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