Postgrad study: for the puritanical and the privileged?

Picture of the Cloisters at the University of Glasgow

Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Liam Dowd

Selena Drake
Deputy Editor

Postgraduate degrees could ultimately be seen to be elitist as, while they might not in theory seek to actively discriminate, you simply need the money to be able to consider the option.

I never thought that I would want to do this; until this year I’d decided that I would go straight into the working world, taking it in my stride. Surely, assuming that I manage to get a 2:1 in the bag, finding a satisfying job would be no problem! However, the reality of being in your last year of university is that, for most people, the truth starts to finally dawn on them – that actually just having the degree on its own isn’t always enough. I have come to realise that to become a journalist, which is the occupation that I personally hope to get into, I just don’t have enough to offer yet in terms of skills or relevant qualifications. This is not to say that other students won’t be able to integrate into the occupational realm upon their graduation, but for many like myself they will also start to realise that they are going to have to do something else after their undergraduate degree to realistically give them a chance in the brutally competitive working sphere.

For those who feel the need to consider the option of doing a postgraduate degree, one of the first questions that comes to mind is how am I going to pay for this? I hastily scanned Student Finance England and found that my tuition would be funded as it currently is in my undergraduate degree, until I need to pay it back. However, unless you get a scholarship, there is no maintenance funding. This made me wonder, how can every student be expected to finance their own way through the degree? After three or four years of squandering your money through hedonistic endeavours, books, accommodation, how can all students, in varying financial situations, go through another year or more of this without any funding? Even if they were able to adopt a puritanical lifestyle, as I ideally hope to do if I did have the good fortune of receiving an offer, paying for one’s own upkeep without generating any income isn’t the most reassuring prospect. The idea of paying your way with a part-time job might relieve the financial stress, but if what I’ve heard about the work demands of a postgraduate degree is anything to go by, working a job alongside it hardly sounds appealing.

In a way, postgraduate degrees share an inherent connection with private schools. Those whose parents can afford it are able to benefit from the perks of these learning institutions but otherwise, unless you are able to acquire a scholarship, it is simply not a realistic consideration. Postgraduate degrees could ultimately be seen as elitist as, while they might not in theory seek to actively discriminate, you simply need the money to be able to consider the option. Students who can afford to complete a postgraduate degree are, in many cases, given a higher chance of obtaining their desired career, as their application will presumably appeal more to employers if a relevant, specialised postgraduate degree is attached to it.

Unless the government provides maintenance loans for postgraduate students who cannot rely on their parents to fund them through it, it can only be assumed that many students will receive the short end of the straw and have a lesser chance of attaining a much-needed extra qualification that could serve as the defining factor in future applications for their most desired job.