Post-grad degrees “go against improved social mobility”

Published

Louise Wilson

A recent study has highlighted a rise in “educational inequality” in Britain as the majority of those who go on to study for postgraduate degrees are coming, increasingly, from richer backgrounds.

The study, undertaken by The Sutton Trust, found 11% of people now hold postgraduate degrees, equating to 2.1 million people. However, the large majority of these 2.1 million come from the richest 20% of the population, based on family income. The report specifically states that: “the barriers to increased social mobility keep on being perpetuated by the colonisation of higher and higher educational qualifications by individuals from richer family backgrounds.”

Those from low and middle-income backgrounds tend to not obtain postgraduate degrees, despite the extra £5,500 annual average earnings for those who hold such a qualification. The report went on to criticise the increase in undergraduate fees to £9,000 per year, which it believes will only “bolster social immobility” in the coming years.

The study recommends that a state-backed loan scheme, similar to that available for undergraduates, should be set up to support those from low or middle-income backgrounds who wish to go into postgraduate study. The study also called for close review of how the increased undergraduate fees affect the numbers of those going into postgraduate study, and ensure universities accept students from a variety of backgrounds onto their postgraduate courses.

The University of Glasgow offers some assistance for those who wish to continue their studies to postgraduate level, as well as a number of scholarships. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) also recently announced that an additional 122 postgraduate places at Glasgow will be supported. A University spokesperson said: “The University of Glasgow has a long-standing commitment to the principle of widening access to higher education and this is borne out by statistics.”

The spokesperson continued: “Our research suggests that undergraduate students from deprived backgrounds do just as well as those from other areas in their studies and are therefore as well prepared to advance to postgraduate level should they wish to do so. The University of Glasgow does provide postgraduate scholarships and assistance to students in applying for external sources of funding.”

The additional of the extra 122 postgraduate places is the largest in Scotland, with the SFC funding 850 taught postgraduate students across 18 Scottish universities.