Autumn Statement: UK to Offer Postgraduate Loans

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George Osborne’s final Autumn Statement has heralded good news for UK postgraduate scholars as Osborne declared that the government will providing loans to them up to £10,000. An approximate 40,000 students under the age of 30 would benefit from the plan, and a further 10,000 would be incentivized to take up masters courses.

The scheme is expected to come into effect from the year 2016-17 and is estimated to rise to a cost of £1.5 billion over the first four years of its progress. Mr. Osborne also abolished any doubts of the new plan being restricted to only students pursuing a degree in the sciences, mathematics, engineering and tech.

As cited in the Treasury document, the loans would be repaid simultaneously with undergraduate loans, and only by those who earn an annual income above £21,000.However, the payback would be at lower interest rates than bank loans. The document further claimed that the move was prompted by an increased demand of skilled labour and social flexibility.

During his announcement in the House of Commons, Chancellor Osborne stated:

“Today, I am going to revolutionize the support for our post-graduate students too. Until now there has been almost no financial support available, and the upfront costs of postgraduate degrees deter bright students from poorer backgrounds.

So today, across all disciplines, we will make government-backed student loans of up to £10,000 available, for the first time ever, to all young people undertaking post-grad masters degrees.”

He also mentioned his previous success in preventing the limitation of the total influx of undergraduates into their universities. The new venture as issued by the Chancellor is driven by the motive of removing challenges faced by brighter postgraduates from less wealthy backgrounds in taking up higher studies.

The move has been lauded by scholars as an excellent initiative in reducing obstacles to higher education. However, the plan has also attracted criticism in its feasibility, and concerns have risen regarding the loan not being able to help individuals from less well-off families. The idea of financial support may encourage students who have rejected the thought of higher studies to rethink their decision, but it would not be a sufficient incentive to the less fortunate to take up on the scheme.

Most of these students are irked by the idea of being in further debt and would not so easily be receptive to an extra loan. This has called up extra attention in the structure of the policy amid critique that a borrower would have to repay the loan with an extra 50 percent fee from their salary.

The overall financial requirement of the loans, as stated by the Treasury’s document, would be £300 million,  £425 million, £395 million and £365 million from 2016-2020 respectively. A detailed design of the scheme is expected be revealed to the public within the first few months of 2015.