As our economy realigns to meet new challenges, postgraduate skills will become more and more important. Yet at a time of great change in the HE sector, postgraduate education suffers from a lack of profile. This inquiry and report, launched in Autumn 2012, examines the issues that will shape the postgraduate sector in the years to come.
A vibrant system of postgraduate education is vital if Britain is to achieve its ambition to be “the leading knowledge-based economy of the world.” Yet postgraduates are almost entirely absent from the debate about the future of our higher education system.
A perfect storm is on the horizon for prospective postgraduates. They face higher tuition fees than any generation before them, coupled with financial institutions which are reluctant to lend money. Simultaneously, globalisation and changes in the UK’s industrial base mean that postgraduate degrees are more important than ever before in getting ahead in the labour market.
This report, the product of an eight-month inquiry, calls for the postgraduate sector to be brought in from the cold and fully embraced as part of an integrated education system. It identifies policy shifts which will be needed to ensure that Britain remains a competitive place to do research and do business. It also explores access to postgraduate education, “the next frontier of widening participation”, and makes recommendations on how postgraduate provision should be funded in the future.
Our system of postgraduate education remains world-class, but there are a number of areas where current policy and practice is out of step with our national vision for this sector and for our economy. In these areas policy change is urgently required. There is no room for complacency. Coasting on our past successes is not an option. Failure to act will put at risk our future prosperity.