Top research centres should help their students secure cheap loans
When more than 40 per cent of your students are postgraduates, as at Warwick, one gains a clear understanding of the financial pressures on them, and the increasingly intense competition they face for state scholarships.
Warwick's graduate school believed that one way to help people do postgraduate study was to arrange financial help by entering into partnerships with the banks to provide advantageous student loan facilities. Warwick is the first university to establish such a partnership, we believe, through an arrangement with Barclays last November, and we were equally pleased the following month to become part of the '94 group of universities' scheme in partnership with the Midland Bank.
The Barclays scheme offers real financial benefits to Warwick's taught masters students. The Midland's scheme covers both taught masters and research students. All future successful applicants for postgraduate courses will receive detailed information on the two schemes. The two schemes offer loans of up to Pounds 10,000 at 1 per cent or 2 per cent above the normal bank base rates (1 per cent for the Barclays' scheme, 1 to 2 per cent for the Midland's, depending on subject).
Barclays offers an interest-free period of three months after the initial drawdown on the loan and the two schemes also allow a period of three to six months to elapse after studies are completed before repayments begin.
All of the universities involved in the Midlands scheme are research-led institutions, with postgraduates forming, on average, more than 25 per cent of students. Together they train over ,000 higher degree students. The banks value the exclusive deals they have made with these universities because of the quality of postgraduate provision.
Last year only ten of Warwick's 1,300 graduating postgraduate students failed to find a job (or further study) after six months.
Universities that expect students to make such a commitment must sustain and build high-quality facilities. Warwick has set up a graduate school with accommodation for over 1,000 students. Every room has telephone and Internet points.
The students' union has also just begun a multimillion pound expansion to provide facilities for postgraduate students.
The quality of the research and teaching environment is the best it has ever been - it has to be if we are to provide the proper and special environment needed by graduate students.
Sir Brian Follett is vice chancellor, Warwick University.