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Postgraduate education report launched

The Higher Education Commission's report on postgraduate education was launched at the House of Commons on 29 October 2012. Clare Jones, a member of the AGCAS Research Staff Task Group who, together with the AGCAS Postgraduate Students Task Group and senior AGCAS staff, coordinated the AGCAS response to the inquiry, attended the launch event.

Dr Graham Spittle, who chaired the inquiry, formally launched the report with responses from David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, and Shabana Mahmood, Shadow Minister for Higher Education.

Issues affecting postgraduate education

During the launch, Dr Spittle stressed that postgraduate education had been neglected in policy debates and strategic thinking and that the inquiry had revealed a number of gaps in the evidence base needed for the development of policy. Both in the report and at the launch, reference was made to 'a perfect storm' of increased fees, students being less willing to incur further debt, and more stringent immigration conditions leading to significant damage being inflicted on the health of the postgraduate sector.

Dr Spittle and Ms Mahmood both highlighted the need for a review and reform of funding mechanisms for postgraduate study, improved access, especially for home students, and the potentially damaging effects of changes to the immigration system on international student recruitment. In his speech, David Willetts remarked that the concerns expressed on the effects of the undergraduate fee changes may be exaggerated and that any future Exchequer involvement in funding would lead to greater central scrutiny of who is undertaking postgraduate courses and what they are studying.

Implications for AGCAS and its members

Members of the inquiry team also stressed that the report was a first step in raising the profile of postgraduate education and that further work will be required. In terms of implications for the involvement of AGCAS and careers services, recommendations 1 and 2 highlight the need for more data on employment outcomes and improved understanding of employer needs for postgraduate skills. Section 7 of the report also deals with research degrees highlighting the need for more information on the quality of research conducted at doctoral level and concerns expressed by industry regarding the narrowness of the UK PhD. The evidence submitted by AGCAS on postgraduate careers is included in the report on page 44.

Find out more about Postgraduate Education: An independent inquiry by the Higher Education Commission and download the full report.

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