The University of Sussex has cut its tiered postgraduate scholarship funding for continuing Sussex students in a move that has sparked outrage amongst students.
The new Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2019) reduces tuition fees by £3,000 for certain courses for continuing Sussex students, as long as the student achieves either a First Class or Upper Second Class honours degree.
This scholarship is in marked contrast to the scholarships available to continuing postgraduate students of previous years, which offered a fee reduction of £5,000 for students achieving a First, and £2,500 for those achieving an Upper Second Class degree.
This change in postgraduate funding comes after the annual increase of postgraduate fees, which increase by 2.5% each year and are subject to rounding.
For the academic year beginning 2019 – 2020, the standard lower rate of a Masters degree at Sussex is £8,100, or £9,750 for Masters at the standard higher rate.
One student speaking to The Badger about these changes, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I have always planned to continue into Masters study at Sussex after my undergraduate degree and I’m on track to graduate with a high 1st, but the fact that it is going to cost me £3,000 more this year than it would’ve done last year, due to raised fees and a lower scholarship, has completely disincentivised me.
“The University management, many of whom were educated for free, are making cuts to this scholarship and others because of funding pressures, while not considering the impact it has on lower income students.”
“Even with a full postgraduate loan and the Sussex scholarship, I will only have £5,000 to live off for the year, meaning I will have to work a significant amount of shifts per week, alongside a full time masters, because my parents cannot support me financially.
“The added pressure of this prevents high achieving students from accessing further study.”
Currently, the maximum Masters loan available from the government is for £10,609.
Despite not being means-tested like an undergraduate student loan, it’s interest rate currently sits at 6.6% and becomes repayable after a postgraduate earns over £21,000.
In conjunction with undergraduate repayments, which begin after a graduate earns over £25,000, this means a combined total of 15% of future salary is repaid by students who took out both Undergraduate and Postgraduate student loans.
The University of Sussex defended its change to the scholarship, telling The Badger: “We have undertaken a full review of all of our scholarships in light of the current political and financial climate.
“At Sussex we are very unusual in offering our high-achieving undergraduates a scholarship if they go straight on to Masters study with us.
“As part of our review we wanted to continue to encourage Sussex students who have done well to stay on here for postgraduate study.
“By changing the value of the Sussex Graduate Scholarship, we’ve been able to continue offering an unlimited number of these awards not only to Sussex graduates who get a first-class degree and then progress to a Masters, but also to those who achieve an upper second.”
Newly elected Postgraduate Officer Benjamin Matthews pledged in his manifesto to ‘campaign to alleviate the stresses caused by the financial implications of postgraduate study.’
Commenting on this change, newly elected Postgraduate Officer Benjamin Matthews told The Badger “Obviously there are wider concerns in higher education funding in the political and financial climate that is a result of Brexit, but the continual defunding of scholarships and grants is a trend that will only result in a reduction in social mobility within this country.
“Making parity amongst Sussex graduates who are progressing to Masters is in one sense a good thing, enabling those with a 2:1 to receive a slightly higher scholarship will aid those students.
“The downside is that this is part of a wider trend of financial restrictions and a lowering of standards.
“As more and more industries look for potential employees who hold a postgraduate degree, for Sussex to retain its position as a leader within research I feel its shortsighted to not sufficiently attract students with the highest attainment at undergraduate.
“As a First Generation Scholar I believe that more bursary/scholarship support for Postgraduate students is vital to not only maintain high academic standards, but also to foster the kind of social mobility that is sorely needed at these times.”
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