Inky Goings On.


Education, Education, Education.
19 October, 2007, 8:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dear Government,

This is a topic that has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. Now, despite persistent use of phrases such as ‘widening participation’, ‘equality of opportunity’ and ‘inclusion’ in debates on Higher Education, there seems to be little attention paid to one of the biggest barriers in this sector: the Masters degree. Personally, I’d love to embark on an MA as soon as this BA is under my belt but there’s a barrier, and whilst on the surface simply being financial, it’s also intrinsically tied into gender and class. I study English, a traditionally female dominated subject, and whilst I hope subjects across all disciplines eventually achieve a far greater gender parity, for now I have to acknowledge the disparity. English, unlike the male-dominated Mathematics and Physics courses, exists solely as a three-year BA Hons. Thus, in order to begin a PhD, I must somehow pluck the £5200 Masters fees and one year’s living costs from thin air. It’s thanks to a government grant on top of my student loan that I’ve been able to come, from a council house in South Wales as one of eight children, to one of the top universities in the country. Yet it seems if I want to further my education, there’s little help available. I know many people who are able to simply turn around to their parents and the money’s there, I know people who have invested their student loan and used it to fund their Masters, and I know people whose parents struggle, but still help their offspring in postgraduate study. But I also know people who have no help whatsoever, who are formidably intelligent and able, who resort to doing their Masters part-time, working long hours to afford it, and finding their studies suffer.

In Gender terms, as previously mentioned, subjects such as Maths and Physics incorporate a Masters into the Undergraduate degree, ensuring support is available from the Student Loan Company and fees are paid either by the LEA on the old system I’m on, or by students later, through top-up fees. Even with top-up fees, £3000 is very cheap for a Masters at Warwick. My boyfriend was able to sail from his undergraduate degree, straight into his PhD despite coming from a similar background to myself. I can’t help but feel this contributes to the criminally low female representation in HE as you look further up the hierarchy of universities, from an equal number at undergraduate level, growing lower and lower through postgraduate study, research fellowships to a handful of female Vice Chancellors.

No, I haven’t got an answer. But I’d like a Masters degree,

lots of love,

Dawn

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