UK loan boosts EU postgrad enrolments, funding extended

The number of EU postgraduate entrants in England increased by seven per cent in the 2016/17 academic year following the introduction of a loan scheme for master's programmes, figures that come as the government confirms a further year of funding commitments for EU students.

Data revealed to StudyTravel Magazine by HEFCE show there were 16,700 full-time and 4,100 part-time EU entrants to postgraduate programmes in England in 2016/17.


The organisation reported that 90,600 UK and EU students commenced full-time taught postgraduate programmes in the 2016/17 year, a rise of 16,100 students (22 per cent).


The loan of up to UK£10,000 to cover tuition fees and living expenses became available to UK and EU students from the beginning of the 2016/17 academic term.


As StudyTravel Magazine reported in early 2016, the introduction of the postgraduate loan, in combination with the lifting of a cap on domestic and EU recruitment, led to agents in EU countries being increasingly courted by UK universities.


Welcoming the data, HEFCE Chief Executive, Madeleine Atkins, said, "We know that access to finance has been a barrier that has put postgraduate study out of reach for some students, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds being affected worst. This latest data is an encouraging indicator that the postgraduate loan scheme has improved access to postgraduate study."


Last week, the UK Department of Education confirmed that EU students will have access to government loans in the 2018/19 year and will pay the same tuition fees as domestic students for courses in England, regardless of the outcome of the UK's Brexit negotiations.


The Department confirmed that EU students commencing programmes in 2018/19 will retain access to funding for the duration of their programme, even if it concludes after Brexit.


Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, "We have been clear about our commitment to the UK's world-class higher education sector. Through our modern industrial strategy and the additional UK£4.7 billion committed for research and innovation over the next five years, we are ensuring the UK has the skills and environment it needs to continue leading the way in academia and research.


"A key part of our success is attracting talent from across the globe. This will provide reassurance to the brightest minds from across Europe to continue applying to study in the UK, safe in the knowledge financial assistance is available if needed."


Alistair Jarvis, Deputy Chief Executive of Universities UK, welcomed the announcement and said, "It is now vital that this announcement is communicated effectively to prospective students across Europe. The UK should be an attractive destination for all qualified international students that would benefit from UK universities and can support themselves to study."


Scotland also recently made a commitment to maintain free tuition fees for EU students commencing in 2018/19.


European agents have expressed concerns about the future of business with UK higher education institutions pending the outcome of the UK's Brexit negotiations with the European Union.


The removal of access to government-backed loans that EU students are currently eligible to apply for along with potential tuition increases in line with fees typical for non-EU students could substantially dampen demand, a number of agents told StudyTravel Magazine in a special news report last year.


At the time of writing, UK£1 = US$1.28



By Matthew Knott

News Editor