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12th December 2013, 2:02pm
New £2.7m project to help students move onto postgraduate study
Science students Students at the University of Lincoln will benefit from a new £2.7m project designed to encourage more undergraduates to progress to Masters degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Lincoln is part of a consortium of nine English universities which has been awarded a major grant by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The government funding, worth £1.85m, is part of HEFCE’s new £25million Postgraduate Support Scheme that will provide work placements and financial and pastoral support to more than 2,800 students at 40 universities across England. A key aim of the scheme is to encourage students who would not otherwise progress to postgraduate level to take up Masters study.

The University of Lincoln is part of a consortium led by Kingston University which will examine the postgraduate student experience. The aim of the work is to encourage students to continue onto postgraduate study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and then track how they fare after graduation. Researchers will investigate the expectations and experiences of students, universities and employers towards postgraduate programmes taught in the STEM subject areas.

Scholarships will be available to cover the fees of 40 postgraduate students at each of the universities involved and the partners will develop mechanisms to support the students.

Dr Andrea Abbas, a Reader in Education and Acting Head of the University of Lincoln’s Centre for Educational Research and Development, will oversee Lincoln’s part of the project.

She said: “Our society and economy needs the high level knowledge that postgraduate study brings but in recent years we have seen stagnation in the numbers of UK students enrolling on Masters level courses.
“A number of recent reports have shown that access to funding is an on-going issue, particularly for students from less wealthy backgrounds, but universities also need to better understand the needs of postgraduate students, whether that is the structure and content of courses, student support, or careers advice. Importantly, our project will also track the outcomes for postgraduate students once they have finished their studies, so we will gain a comprehensive picture of the full postgraduate student journey. This is a real opportunity to explore the benefits of postgraduate education for a wider range of students.”

Michelle Morgan, a researcher based at Kingston University who specialises in investigating the postgraduate student experience, is leading the project for the consortium. She is confident it will enable institutions to better understand the barriers, motivations and outcomes for their students.

“It will help us to understand what postgraduate study is, and, more importantly, what we want it to be,” she said. “It should result in more targeted and sustainable support for students; improved course design, providing students with the skills required by businesses and industries; and strategies that lead to the sustained growth of the  postgraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics study market in the United Kingdom."

Plymouth, Portsmouth, Brighton, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Teesside and Manchester Metropolitan are the other English universities involved in the consortium. While the remit of the HEFCE scheme is to investigate the postgraduate experience in England, universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also heavily involved in the study and have provided additional funding.

In total, the project has been awarded £2,741,285. The figure includes £1,859,909 from HEFCE along with contributions from the other project stakeholders. It will get under way in January 2014 and is expected to conclude in March 2016.

Steve Egan, HEFCE Interim Chief Executive, said: “The range and innovative approaches in the schemes which universities have devised to increase take up of postgraduate courses is impressive. We will work closely with the projects to see what is working well and to communicate this widely to build strong foundations for this critical aspect of higher education.”

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