A part of my role in academic planning, I read a lot of proposals for new postgraduate awards, and I also look how many and what kind of student enrol in masters level taught awards when I’m doing any analysis of our award portfolio and student population. With the current approach to student visas likely to have an impact on international recruitment from some countries, and the cost of HE in the UK, it’s timely to consider how to develop an appropriate postgraduate offering.
This got me thinking, particularly in the light of a couple of articles in the press in the last week about M-level study.
The Times Higher reports on a recent forum where Mick Fuller, chair of the UK Council for Graduate Education and head of Plymouth University’s graduate school,said “institutions were now less able to cross subsidise master’s provision because of the squeeze on undergraduate numbers.” With the new fees regime set to leave graduates with loan debt of tens of thousands of pounds, many in the sector question whether students will burden themselves with more debt by moving into postgraduate study.
Bob Burgess of Leicester University added “the supply in taught master’s programmes had already become “dangerously low.We need to think about new ways to attract postgraduate students into higher education.”
The article cites the rise in Masters courses taught in English in other European countries, and that these could become more attractive to both U< and overseas students.
In another THE article, it states “Research councils may eventually have to “rethink” the requirement for PhD candidates to have a master’s degree if the number of studentships available for such lower-level courses continues to be cut.”
With these factors in mind, here’s a few thoughts and questions about taught masters awards
- Why would a university run an award for which they might charge about £5000 for a UK student for 180 credits, when you could earn £9000 for teaching an undergraduate student for 120 credits?
- How can we develop targets that recognise that some activities – and postgraduate teaching is one of them – need to be considered in terms that are not just financial?
- Why would a student choose a taught postgraduate masters over an integrated masters? The former would cost leas, and cover more learning, the latter, although more expensive could be completed in less time and be covered by a student loan?
- In developing and reshaping a postgraduate portfolio, should awards be designed to directly follow on from awards in an existing undergraduate portfolio, or should they be more open and negotiated with a greater amount of research expected?
- What should we measure in a postgraduate portfolio performance tool? Are the factors that we would use for undergraduate relevant, or do other things come into play?
I don;t have answers to these questions yet – just a set of opinions!- but these are some of the things I’ll be considering as I start work on assessing the postgraduate portfolio, and on mapping progression routes from our existing undergraduate awards.