A study from the Sutton Trust charity has warned that postgraduate course costs could be creating a social mobility barrier. The trust believes that an increase in course tuition fees is leading to a situation where a social divide is forming between those who are able to afford higher education costs and those who cannot. This not only applies to the direct cost of postgraduate course fees, but also to the increase in undergraduate course costs, as by the time many students graduate they are deterred from furthering their studies as they are worried about mounting debt.
This issue needs to be addressed soon if we are to avoid students being priced out of an education which allows them to earn higher wages in the future. Sir Peter Lampl, the trust’s chairman says that we need to ensure that we do not create a system where postgraduate courses are the “preserve of the better off student.”
The study conducted by the London School of Economics and Surrey University found the results to be extremely showing, and many conclusions can be drawn from the figures. In 1996 the number of working age people with postgraduate degrees was just 4%, and this number has now risen to 11%. It also found that postgraduate earnings were on average £5,000 more per year than for those with undergraduate degrees. The main issue that has been identified is that as employers are increasingly eager to recruit those with postgraduate degrees, and as the fees continue to rise, there is a social divide forming between those able to afford courses and those that simply don't have the funds.
The increase in expectations for academic qualifications for higher paid jobs could create a wealth driven jobs system if we do not do something to help less well off students to fund their education. Undergraduate students are looking at the prospect of up to £40,000 debt by the time they have completed their studies, and the thought of taking on yet more financial burdens to fund their postgraduate degree is simply too much of a load for many to bear.
The results of the study conducted by the Sutton Trust should act as a warning to policy makers and those in control of course funding figures, as we need to ensure that our higher education system does not disadvantage students who are not from a wealthy background. If course costs continue to rise, we need to provide more support for those wishing to further their education and strive for the highest paid jobs.