While George Osborne, the chancellor, did not mention postgraduate study in his speech, the Treasury’s accompanying Budget document pledged to overcome “potential barriers in the postgraduate system that may be restricting the supply of…higher skills”.
In his speech, Mr Osborne said there would be targeted support for science and engineering projects.
The budget document made clear this would total £222 million, covering an Alan Turing Institute working on big data and algorithm research (£42 million over five years); a cell therapy manufacturing centre and a graphene innovation centre as part of the UK’s Catapult network (£74 million over five years); and 20 new Centres for Doctoral Training (£106 million over five years).
Mr Osborne told MPs: “If Britain isn’t leading the world in science and technology and engineering, then we are condemning our country to fall behind.
“So we will establish new centres for doctoral training, for Cell Therapy and for Graphene – a great British discovery that we should break the habit of a lifetime with and commercially develop in Britain.”
Mr Osborne continued: “To make sure we give young people the skills they need to get good jobs in this modern world, we’ve doubled the number of apprenticeships and I will extend the grants for smaller businesses to support over 100,000 more. And we’ll now develop new degree-level apprenticeships too.”
On postgraduate study, the Budget document says: “The changing nature of the labour market is demanding higher skilled workers. There are however potential barriers in the postgraduate system that may be restricting the supply of these higher skills.
“To ensure the UK can compete successfully in the global economy, the government will investigate options to support increasing participation in postgraduate studies and will put forward its ideas at Autumn Statement 2014.”
In last year’s Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne announced the abolition of student number controls. Another announcement aimed at boosting participation, this time at postgraduate level, would further the impression that the Treasury is convinced of the economic benefits from higher education.
Today’s Treasury document also says that funding for the “Education is GREAT” campaign to promote the UK to international students “will be increased to £3 million in 2014-15”.
This will “help attract more international students to the UK, and build on its reputation as a world-leading place to study”, the document says.