The group of smaller research-intensive universities will today unveil a report highlighting the drop, titled Increasing Postgraduate Opportunities: Proposals for Funding.
Amanda Chetwynd, chair of the 1994 Group Student Experience Committee and pro vice-chancellor for the student experience at Lancaster University, said: “There has been an unprecedented 12 per cent drop over the last three years in the number of UK students entering postgraduate taught study.
“This presents a very real threat to the highly skilled workforce that the UK needs to be able to compete globally. We need to act now to forestall what could be an even bigger drop in 18 months’ time.”
The report recommends that government funding for Professional and Career Development Loans for master’s study and the postgraduate National Scholarship Programme should be redirected to fund an income-contingent loan system.
The 1994 Group calculates that the cost to government of a loan scheme that provides up to £10,000 for students with first- or upper-second-class degrees, repayable at 9 per cent on income between £15,000 and £21,000, would be less than £50 million a year in the long-term. Repayments, once the borrower was earning over £15,000 a year, would be just £10 a week, the group says.
The report also recommends the creation of a Council for Universities and the Professions, bringing together representatives of the HE sector and professional bodies, to monitor the take-up of postgraduate courses and to encourage the introduction of financial support across professions.
David Willetts, the universities and science minister, says in his foreword to the report: “Universities play a vital role in developing a highly skilled workforce by training postgraduate students. We need these top level skills to compete and succeed in a global knowledge economy.
“I welcome this report, and in particular its attempt to put forward possible solutions for the future financing of postgraduate education”.