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Taught PG Loans Are Here - It's Time To Switch Strategy | HE Research Snippet #16

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Government-backed loans for postgraduate taught students is reigniting senior teams’ interest in offering these courses.

Tags: HE Thinking

Andreanne Orsier, Higher Education Research Team
Andreanne Orsier, Higher Education Research Team

Andréanne heads up YouthSight’s Higher Education research team and helps universities drive commercial success.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on Government-backed loans for postgraduate taught students is reigniting senior teams’ interest in offering these courses. Across the UK, these loans look like a game changer as universities are offered the tantalising opportunity to rebalance their cohorts towards UK students and avoid ever-increasing financial reliance on International fee payers. While there are going to be excellent new opportunities, our new research reveals that universities cannot expect business as usual as they look to expand their PGT provision.


The ‘£9k Generation’ expects more for less

YouthSight’s new PGT Plus reveals how the ‘£9k Generation’, the first cohort to graduate to pay the £9,000 annual tuition fee, are more occupied by fees and living costs than finalists last year. We asked 2,000 prospective PGT students, including current finalists, about their future decisions and compared the results with last year’s. For this year’s finalists, the ‘cost of tuition fees’ is ‘very important’ to 58%, compared with 46% last year. The importance of ‘Living and accommodation costs’ has also seen a substantial rise year-on-year (with 48% claiming it to be very important in 2014 compared to 34% last year), as has the ‘availability of funding’ (2013 – 45%, 2014 – 64%).


But it’s not just financial factors where we see large differences. Those who have paid higher fees are also substantially more interested in the institution’s reputation than last year’s finalists and there have been some important and interesting changes in the likelihood of the £9k generation to only consider their undergraduate university for PGT study between 2013 and 2014. For anyone wondering what the impact of higher fees on undergraduate students will be, the changes are likely to be substantial and profound. Our evidence reveals a set of unusually clear and directional results.


PGT is a series of micro-markets

Finalists’ attitudes to money are not the only factors that make success in the enlivened PGT marketplace challenging. There are high degrees of variation in other areas. Between subjects, locations, and lifestages, attitudes to PGT differ substantially. For example, prospective PGTs of ‘Business and Admin’ (excluding MBAs) considering ‘high ranking’ universities are willing to pay a substantially different amount to those considering ‘Life Sciences’ PGTs.


PGT loans make it harder

So, far from lessening the PGT pressure, a new loans system will generate more by bringing a greater number of demanding students into the system. Many of those students will be carrying greater debt burdens and are seeking more for less, with greater focus on the returns on their investments. Additionally, and in contrast to undergraduate study, the degrees of variation between different subject groups, ages, geographies, and motivations are large. As senior teams challenge their universities to evolve and meet these challenging demands, high-quality strategic insight will be vital in planning for success in this fragmented and demanding marketplace.

So while it might be a case of more students, it won’t be more of the same.

 PGT+: Your 360° view on postgraduate decision-making. Find out more