Progression to postgraduate study

Progression from higher education may mean preparing students for employment, or progressing to postgraduate study.

The changing nature of employment will increasingly require individuals to commit to lifelong learning through upskilling or reskilling throughout their working lives.

Providers can work with current students and alumni to highlight opportunities for postgraduate study or conversion programmes. This also requires working closely with employers to meet local, regional and national skills needs reflecting wider calls for training providers to be responsive to employer needs (CBI, 2018).

Our analysis of the Intentions after Graduation survey 2016-17 when combined with DLHE survey results showed that for all student groups, the proportion of graduates able to realise their intention to continue postgraduate studies has increased.

However, the increase was greatest among:

  • students aged 26 and over
  • black students
  • students who declared a disability
  • students from lowest-participation areas.

The proportion of students who were eligible for a postgraduate masters' loan and took one out was greatest among:

  • students aged 25 and under on entry
  • black students
  • students who declared a disability
  • students from lowest-participation areas.

Effective practice

The 2017 evaluation of HEFCE’s £50 million Postgraduate Support Scheme highlighted that students from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to progress to postgraduate study at the provider where they completed their undergraduate degree.

It suggests that policies to widen postgraduate participation need to account for the undergraduate location of students in a similar way to undergraduate widening participation strategies involve working with schools in low participation areas.

Approaches that aim to increase the take up of postgraduate study for underrepresented groups of students may include:

  • increased promotion of postgraduate options to undergraduate students and alumni
  • improved information, advice and guidance about postgraduate study, linking to career pathways
  • embedded postgraduate transition support within curricula and learning
  • identification and promotion of diverse role models for students to engage with.

Several providers are taking forward work to encourage more students from underrepresented groups into postgraduate taught courses. They are, for example, focusing on students from neighbourhoods with the lowest participation rates and BAME backgrounds.

One provider has developed an undergraduate module for final-year students that promotes postgraduate study and aims to prepare those who have an offer. The module:

  • improves understanding of the demands and expectations of higher level study,
  • builds confidence and awareness of the support that will be available
  • provides opportunities to develop both personal and academic skills and strategies to support success.

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