The effect of postgraduate loans

Overall findings

Data from 2016-17, when postgraduate loans were introduced, shows that there has been an increase in entrant numbers.

Entrants to eligible courses

Data is now available for the 2016-17 entrants and this allows us to look at the increase in greater detail. In 2016-17, students on loan-eligible courses made up 53 per cent of all entrants.

The increase between 2015-16 and 2016-17 has only been observed on eligible courses. In fact, the increase has been 31 per cent on loan-eligible courses compared with a 1 per cent decrease in the number of entrants to non-eligible courses. This is an increase of more than 22,000 entrants to eligible courses, while the number of students to non-eligible courses has decreased by approximately 600.


One-year transition rates

To assess whether there has been a change for students who go straight from undergraduate to postgraduate study, one-year transition rates have been calculated for those going into loan eligible and non-eligible courses.

The results show that there has been a three percentage point increase in transition rates to eligible courses between 2014-15 and 2015-16 qualifiers, but no change in transition rates to non-eligible courses.


Loan take-up

Analysis of a large subset of English-domiciled eligible students in 2016-17 found around 54,000 postgraduate entrants who were eligible for a postgraduate masters' student loan, and nearly two-thirds took one out.

Realisation of intentions

Final year students are asked about their intentions six months after graduation. The respondents have been linked to the following year’s data to see whether or not they went into postgraduate study.

In terms of which students are contributing to the proportional increase in immediate transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study: between 2014-15 and 2015-16 degree qualifiers, there has been an increase of six percentage points in the proportion of students who were certain that they wanted to go into postgraduate studies immediately after graduation and actually did so. Of 2014-15 qualifiers, 54 per cent wanted to enter postgraduate and did, compared with 60 per cent of 2015-16 qualifiers.

However, the increase was only of two percentage points (from 21 per cent) for those who were certain that they would enter postgraduate study; a single percentage point (from 16 per cent) for those who were likely to go; and no increase in the proportion who were unlikely to enter postgraduate. Therefore the change was greatest for those who were certain they wanted to enter postgraduate study within six months.

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