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Page last updated at 09:52 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 10:52 UK

Have Your Say: Graduate loans

An open book
Postgraduate students could pay up to 12.9% interest on their loan

Post Graduate students have limited funding options, including career development loans or grants from research councils.

Career development loans are currently charging interest rates of up 12.9%.

Many feel these costs are daunting when they may already have high levels of undergraduate debt.

Tell us about your experiences.

Are you completing or considering postgraduate studies?

What are the financial options and costs?

Have you any solutions?

We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. The debate is now closed.


... if the government really is serious about Britain taking on the rest of the world in a highly skilled era they need to invest in postgraduate studies
David, Aberystwyth

The suggestion that if you fail to get government funding for your postgraduate degree is down to a lack of academic achievement is insulting. There are limited financial resources available to the funding councils they do not increase proportionately to the number of new postgraduates. There are more people choosing to continue with postgraduate studies because there are now more people capable of doing them! Competition for research council funding is fierce and if the government really is serious about Britain taking on the rest of the world in a highly skilled era they need to invest in postgraduate studies. The British workforce could be teeming with postgraduate level workers if the government were willing to shell out more money.

The current student loan repayment system is also a shambles, leaving lower income graduates paying monthly contributions which are less than the monthly interest payments.
David, Aberystwyth

My son, having this summer completed his undergraduate degree, is about to start a 1 year taught Masters degree at the London School of Economics. Looking through the LSE's brochure for prospective postgraduates, I was astonished to see that the fees alone for a single year range from some 6,000 to over 17,000, depending on the particular course. That, plus the cost of living in London, puts a taught Masters out of reach of a large proportion of potential candidates, as it seems the only realistic source of funding available in practice for taught Masters courses is via loans (and even then there is no guarantee that a suitable loan will be forthcoming). So a 1 year taught Masters at LSE for a student living away from home is going to cost between 20,000 to 30,000, depending on the course fees. Small wonder that over half the post-graduate students at LSE are from overseas. Most potential UK students appear priced out of it. My son has obtained a bank loan but this, on top of his accumulated student loan, is a frightening sum. By way of a sad post-script, my son's girlfriend also secured a place to do a 1 year's taught Masters at London University, but the prospect of a large loan has proved far too worrying, and in the absence of suitable alternative funding, she has now notified them that she will not be taking up the place.
Jeremy, Sheffield

Today's 'Money Box' reflected our recent experiences trying to fund our son's post graduate course at the Royal Northern College of Music - Manchester. He had auditioned and been accepted before we discovered there was no funding. He has the usual Student Loan to pay back after 3 years at university. We are supporting him with rent but that has left nearly 6,000 worth of fees for the 'Masters' plus day to day living costs to find. He has been lucky to have been awarded two bursaries which cover some of the fees. We approached HSBC who invited our son to apply for their Professional Studies Loan, only to be turned down because Music is not a qualifying subject! He could have gone to the same college to train as a teacher and been accepted for the loan. However, the Careers Development Loan looks a better option but as you say, a daunting amount to pay back and the pressure to get a highly paid job once he finishes the Masters. Many graduates feel they should do a Masters as their peers are doing this. A Performance Diploma by itself is not 'recognised'. Experience with our elder son suggests that employers are not really interested in taking on graduates as they have no work experience. That came as a big shock last year and we hope this will not be repeated with our other son once he finishes.... It seems you can be over qualified and still off the bottom of any career 'ladder'.
Mrs Duffy, Glos

If your post-graduate studies are vital for your career, such as in Planning, Architecture, etc, it's probably in your best interests to get a graduate post in this profession and get your employer to sponsor you for your post-grad. Then you have the benefits of working in the field, studying part-time and paying nothing for it. Local Authorities are usually great for this, and although they will tie you in for a few years after, if you're worth it private practice will "buy you out".

Martin, in regards to your comment that postgraduate degrees are a privilege, not a right. I am completing a MSc. at the moment. I am a librarian. Despite having effectively worked as a librarian for two years without one, I am required to have one if I actually want to get full time, permanent employment at a salary that allows me to live. I have an excellent undergraduate degree and considerable academic experience. However, I was not funded by the AHRC - very few people are successful, regardless of how "academically qualified" they are - and had to get a CDL. On top of that, I worked through out my degree and yet will be coming out with considerably more debt than is comfortable. Did you by any chance go to University during the grant system? Because if so, you have no idea how the system (and the stress) affects students now.
Meghan, London

As an Open University student in the 1980s & 90s I received no assistance towards my first degree. I also had to pay my own way through my Masters and I am now self-financing my PhD through a loan while working full time.

The distribution of 12-15000 per year tax free to a few graduate students could be much better employed by paying the fees for 4 or 5 students. Full time graduate students are offered part-time/casual teaching work opportunities which are seldom available to those of us tied to another employer. I study alongside 23 year olds who have a higher disposable income than I do because I have to pay tax, NI etc and have no opportunity for a second income through teaching. And as a further insult PGs attending conferences often get bursaries which are denied to older/wage-earning students
Stephanie, Leicester

The amount of my student debts have left me in a position where it was financially impossible for me to consider having a baby in my twenties. I took out a loan of 20,000 pounds to pay for studies as a barrister. The unofficial breakdown was: 10,000 to pay course fees, 6,000 to pay off my undergraduate loan and 4,000 towards living expenses for the year (to be topped up with a scholarship and Saturday job earnings).

Sadly, although I passed my barrister course and then my pupillage year, I did not enjoy the job. I also found that I was sinking into more debt during my training year, because of the sundries that needed to be bought, not covered by the minimum wage paid to pupils by Chambers. I needed to buy wig, gown, law books and train tickets all over the country at peak hours as I was sent off daily from London to Sheffield Magistrates, Birmingham Crown Court etc. There was no knowing when the solicitors might pay my fees (I never saw around half of my fees), so all of these expenses went on a credit card.

I am lucky in that, having quit the Bar, I got an excellent job in a legal charity. But even with a salary of 24,000 which has risen to 33,000 over three years, I am still paying over half my monthly salary on my debts to keep my head above water. The bank which gave me my loan have been completely inflexible when I have experienced difficulties, and issued me with legal notices and penalty fees on the one month over the years that I was slightly late in making a repayment, albeit with telephone permission of one of their managers.

My complaint against the Bank was taken up by the Financial Ombudsman. I've been to the Citizens' Advice Bureau for advice. They said that they are seeing more and more people who are on good salaries in first or second jobs, but facing bankruptcy or great difficulties because of escalating loan repayments.

I feel thankful that I have been able, without any family support, to keep my head above water. I don't regret the 'mistake' I made in training as a barrister because, being young and without actually having experienced the job, it's hard to know whether it will suit you until you're doing it. I do regret, however, being left with such massive debts at an age where I would like to have children but that is a financial impossibility. I would caution anyone looking at taking out a 'career development loan' to consider the long term impacts...
Anna, Belfast

Postgraduate degrees are not a right, they are earned by academic achievement and ability.
Martin, Stroud

There is a good reason that student loans are not available to postgraduate students. Basically, in 1994 (ish) when student loans began, full LEA tuition & maintenance grants were starting to be phased out, so student loans were needed to fill the gap.

However, postgraduate studies continued to be funded in full from government funded agencies, so student loans for postgraduate qualifications were not needed, and that is still the case.

Most postgraduate students are still funded through government-funded bodies. So those calling for the introduction of student loans for postgrads better be careful, as the 'small government' brigade will use that as an excuse to abolish the full funding for tuition fees & maintenance grants currently available.

And for those who can't get full funding for their postgrad studies at the moment, there is a good reason; you should not be doing a postgrad course. Postgraduate degrees are not a right; they are earned by academic achievement and ability.

Please, lets not have a repeat of what happened to undergraduate degrees, where those that should have gone to university suddenly found it more difficult and expensive, whilst through student loans, those that would under the old system have not gone to university and got a job (or become an unemployment statistic, another reason why student loans were introduced), obtained worthless & pointless degrees and a lot of debt. I suspect the government is trying to abolish full funding for postgraduate degrees, and Money Box Live's item on the subject is part of a centrally planned 'softening up' debate. It was certainly biased (pro-postgrad loan) or incompetent, as the obvious point I have made above was not clearly explained.
Martin, Stroud some stage young people need to wake-up and live in the real world.
Robert, London

This item is incredible. Postgrad courses are generally "nice to have" - i.e. they boost one's salary.

The attitude of the parents/NUS seems to be that would-be postgrads are naive; at some stage young people need to wake-up and live in the real world. Frankly the mother who said that would-be postgrads don't understand APRs is not helpful - these people are 21/22 - not 12!

I undertook an MBA part-time which cost me some 40k; I had to fund it through a mixture of bank loans and savings. Waiting a few years (I'm in my late 30s) helps; would it not make more sense to do a Masters several years after a Bachelors when one is in a better position financially?
Robert, London

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

Money Box



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