Understanding who does Postgraduate Study

Please refer to the ‘Undergraduate Further Reading’ pages for information on lifelong learning, gender, university management and general information.

Allen, J., Goodlad, S. and Redman, C. (2006) The market failure of postgraduate education: Financial and funding related issues, Scotland: National Postgraduate Committee
Paper looks at motivations to study at PG level and financial and funding-related issues as barriers
Available at: http://www.npc.org.uk/postgraduatefactsandissues/postgraduatepublications/marketfailureofpostgraduateeducationsurveyreport2006.pdf

Brenn-White, M. and Faethe, E. (2013) English-Taught Master’s Programs in Europe: A 2013 Update, New York: Institute of International Education In recent years, European countries in which English is not the primary language of instruction have developed an increasing number of programs taught either fully or partly in English in order to serve domestic demand for higher education in English and to attract students from around the world. In an IIE briefing paper published in 2012, they looked at trends related to English-taught master’s programs in Europe.  They were able to gain new insights into the types of programs that were on offer, as well as the types of programs international students were looking for. This paper takes another look at data from StudyPortals.eu, the most comprehensive website related to educational offerings in Europe, in order to get a sense of where the market is going. Available here

Clarke, G.  and Lunt, I. (2014) International comparisons in postgraduate education: quality, access and employment outcomes, Bristol: HEFCE
This report is the outcome of a study to compare postgraduate education in eight countries: Australia, England, Germany, India, Norway, Scotland, Spain and the United States. The study focused on taught (PGT) and research (PGR) postgraduate programmes, and aimed to reflect the range of postgraduate degrees (masters and doctorate), diplomas and certificates. Case studies of each country were developed through a survey of relevant literature and interviews with key informants from each country.  The report focuses on the three overarching themes: quality, access and employment outcomes of postgraduate education, and includes comparisons between England and the other countries in the study in order to identify the strengths and challenges of the various postgraduate education systems. Available here

Hasgall,A., Saenen, B. and Borrell-Damian. L. (2019) Survey-Doctoral education in Europe today: approaches and institutional structures, Switzerland:European University Association
The following report by the European University Association (EUA) provides an overview about the
current landscape of doctoral education in Europe. The aim of this survey is to provide an up-to-date picture of institutional approaches to doctoral education in Europe. Available here

Higher Education Commission (2012) Postgraduate Education – An Independent Inquiry by the Higher Education Commission, London :HEC
The Higher Education Commission is an independent body made up of leaders from the education sector, the business community and the three major political parties. This inquiry report focuses on an area of education which has been neglected in terms of policy debate and strategic thinking. Much attention has been directed towards schools and undergraduate education, but there has been almost no focus on postgraduate education. The recent higher education white paper, which ran to almost 80 pages, had only nine paragraphs devoted to postgraduate education. It identifies a number of areas where current practice and policy is out of step with the UK’s vision for this sector and for our economy. In these areas policy change is urgently required. The postgraduate sector needs to be brought in from the cold and fully embraced as part of an integrated education system. Available here

Higher Education Funding Council for England (2013) Postgraduate Education in England and Northern Ireland, Bristol: HEFCE
This is the first report in a projected regular series providing information about the postgraduate sector in England and Northern Ireland. It sets out numbers and trends in postgraduate provision over the last 10 years and summarises the work of  HEFCE and others over the past year to enhance the evidence base for this part of the higher education sector. Available here

House, G. (2020) Postgraduate Education in the UK HEPI Analytical Report 1, London:Higher Education Policy Institute This report explores how the state of postgraduate education in the UK has changed over the past decade. It builds on two earlier HEPI reports published in 2004 and 2010, and mainly focuses on the period from 2008/09 to 2017/18. Available here

Kearney, M-L.(2008) The Role of Post-Graduate Education in Research Systems, Position Paper for the UNESCO/DCU Workshop on Trends in Post-Graduate Education at Dublin City University, 5-7 March, Dublin Today, post-graduate education faces multiple challenges in terms of demand, supply, quality and returns, both for providers and the clientele concerned. Why students decide to pursue this level of study and the incentives offered by institutions and employers are critical factors in changing and understanding trends. This paper considers a range of issues including national policies relating to academic qualifications, institutional infrastructures that are needed to offer various types of academic qualifications, identifying which students are seeking this level of study, how new types of research degrees are affecting the traditional mobility patterns, and whether financial issues are acting as barriers to this level of study. Available here

Mellors-Bourne, R., Humfrey, C., Kemp, N. and Woodfield, S (2013) The wider benefits of international higher education in the UK: BIS research paper 128, London: Department of Business, Innovation and Skills This study was commissioned to develop an understanding of wider benefits to the graduates, their countries of origin and, especially to the UK. The aim was to investigate and illustrate social, economic and political benefits including soft power impact. Available here

Morgan, M. (2014) Patterns, Drivers and Challenges pertaining to Postgraduate Taught Study-an international comparative analysis in Journal for Higher Education and Research Development, 33 (6) p1150-1165
The global growth in postgraduate (PG)study since the mid-1990s has been attributed to the expansion in Masters by Coursework participation (Bekhradnia, B. (2005). Postgraduate education in the UK: Trends and challenges higher education policy institute. Paper presented at a conference The future of postgraduate education supporting the students of today and tomorrow, London, 17 March). However, unlike at undergraduate level, research into understanding PG growth has been under-researched. This paper aims to contribute to the knowledge gap by identifying and comparing the growth in PG study in Australia, Canada, the USA, and the UK. It explores the possible drivers behind the growth and concludes by highlighting potential challenges facing the future of PG study across the sector. Available here

Stuart, M., Lido, C., Morgan,M., Solomon, L., and Akroyd, K. (2008) Widening participation to postgraduate study Decisions, deterrents and creating success Project report Higher Education Academy grant 2006/7, York: HEA There is limited research about which students take postgraduate qualifications, if there is any under-representation of particular groups in postgraduate study, why students decide to continue to study at postgraduate level and what their experience is once they take on a postgraduate qualification. This research was undertaken to investigate these questions. Funded by the Higher Education Academy during the academic year 2006-07, the project examined, using quantitative and qualitative data analysis, the factors that affect students’ decisions to undertake a postgraduate (PG) qualification following their undergraduate qualifications in higher education. It explored if there were any significant differences between student groups (such as traditional vs. non-traditional students) and their intentions and experience of studying at postgraduate level. The research findings will be of value to higher education managers and lecturers who plan and teach postgraduate courses. They will also benefit higher education careers advisors, those responsible for marketing, financial counsellors in higher education and international student advisors. It also provides a contribution to the research on widening access in higher education for researchers and practitioners in the field. Available here

Universities UK (2009) Taught postgraduate students: market trends and opportunities, London: Universities UK This report brings together information about taught postgraduate students from data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and from a literature search. It identifies a number of issues that will be important for the development of this provision in the next decade. Available here

Universities UK (2013) The power of part-time- Review of part-time and mature higher education, London: Universities UK Between 2010 and 11, the number of students recruited to part-time courses fell by 40%. This report attempts to understand what is going on and how to address it. Available here

Wakeling, P. and Mateos-González, L.J. (2021) Inequality in the highest degree- Postgraduates, prices and participation, London: Sutton Trust This report uses data from very large-scale surveys of UK graduates across the years 2012/12 – 2017/18 to track progression from undergraduate to postgraduate study. It investigates how this varies according to graduates’ socio-economic and academic characteristics. It also looks at whether new master’s loans have helped to shift inequalities of postgraduate access. With the help of a major database on postgraduate fees, postgraduate tuition fees are tracked to see if they have changed in the same period and assess whether, despite these new loans, this is pricing some graduates out of postgraduate study. Available here

Wakeling, P. and Hampden-Thompson, G. (2013)Transition to higher degrees across the UK: an analysis of national, institutional and individual differences, York: Higher Education Academy
This report, funded by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), investigates patterns of transition to postgraduate degrees in the UK and looks at differences in relation to three areas: the individual characteristics of graduates, such as gender and ethnic group; the type of higher education institution, and the four UK home nations. Its findings help  to understand where further work is needed to ensure that the postgraduate cohort is more representative of our society as a whole. Available here

Wakeling, P. (2011)  Response to the BIS consultation on the White Paper Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System –Response 1 The White Paper and Postgraduate Education, Department of Education: University of York
Wakeling offers two sets of responses to the consultation. The first, contained in this document, is written in his capacity as an expert on patterns of participation in postgraduate education in the UK and relates specifically to the discussion of postgraduate education and the implications for changes proposed in other parts of the document for postgraduate education. Available here

Wakeling, P. (2011)  Response to the BIS consultation on the White Paper Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System  Response 2- General comments, Department of Education , University of York Wakeling offers two sets of responses to the consultation.The second set of responses, contained in this document, provides a more general comment on the plans contained in the White Paper and on some specific details of the proposals. Although the two sets of responses are to some extent complementary, his comments on the White Paper as it relates to postgraduate education can be taken separately. Available here

Wakeling, P. (2010) Inequalities in postgraduate education: a comparative review In G. Goastellec, (ed) Understanding Inequalities in and by Higher Education, (pp. 61 – 74), Rotterdam: Sense Despite recent rapid increases in postgraduate numbers, little is known about the ethnic background of current postgraduates. This lacuna is addressed using data about the UK postgraduate population. Overall, students from minority ethnic backgrounds are under-represented among research and teacher-training students but not on masters degrees. The trend over time is encouraging. Substantial differences between minority ethnic groups are found and patterns of participation are shown to be structured by subject of study, institutional location and prior attainment. It is argued that differences in representation must be understood in the context of existing knowledge about prior educational patterns and subsequent labour market outcomes. Viewed in this way, under-representation of certain minority groups is potential evidence of disadvantage but underrepresentation can be interpreted more positively for other groups. Concerns remain over minorities’ access to research degrees and the implications of this for the demographic composition of the academic profession.

Wakeling, P. (2010) Acces to Higher Education after the first degree: Do background effects continue to decline? Paper presented to the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Helsinki, Finland , Thursday 26 August 2010 The effects of background characteristics – notably socio-economic background – have tended to exhibit certain empirical regularities: they are persistent across time, educational level and national context; and they decline with successive educational transitions. This paper investigates whether this holds true for transition into postgraduate study, an area which has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years but has been little researched. Using the UK as a test case, three different large-scale datasets about transition to postgraduate study are investigated. Results indicate that the effect of socio-economic background disappears in immediate transitions to postgraduate study, but that it revives somewhat in later transitions (which are the most common routes taken). The implications of these findings for theory and policy are discussed. Available here

Wakeling, P. and Kyriacou, C. (2010) Widening Participation from Undergraduate to Postgraduate Research Degrees, NCCPE and ESRC: Swindon This research synthesis was commissioned by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to investigate research and summarise findings about widening participation from undergraduate to postgraduate research degrees. It discusses the evidence in this area about UK-domiciled students, but with some reference to international evidence where appropriate. Available here

Wakeling, P. (2009) Social Class and Access to Postgraduate Education in the UK: A sociological Analysis, Manchester: The University of Manchester NEW!
The thesis investigates the relationship between social class background and entry to postgraduate study in the UK. Very little is known about access to postgraduate study. Although there is a good deal of research about the relationship between social class and educational attainment and progression in general, this study represents the first comprehensive examination of the issue in the UK. Understanding the relationship between social class and postgraduate study is important for three reasons. Firstly, since possession of educational qualifications strongly conditions success in the labour market, access to higher education is important. If entry to postgraduate education is affected by social class background above other factors, such inequality will obstruct attempts to ensure the UK becomes a meritocracy. Secondly, analysis of the links between postgraduate education and social class provides an opportunity to comprehend broad patterns of social change, stratification and mobility, such as the tendency for social class inequalities to be ‘passed up’ to the next educational level as the system expands. The thesis explores whether sociologists’ characterisation of these patterns of persistent, maximally maintained and effectively maintained inequality can legitimately be extended to the postgraduate level. Available here

Wakeling, P. (2005) La noblesse d’état anglaise? Social class and progression to postgraduate study, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26 (4), 505-522 Despite rapid growth in UK postgraduate education and a current focus on issues of access to higher education, consideration of possible social class differentials at the postgraduate level is missing from the sociological literature. Using Higher Education Statistics Agency data, this paper presents a preliminary investigation of the relationship between social class and progression to postgraduate study in England and considers the interplay with other salient variables, including subject of study, institutional type and first-degree achievement. Evidence of a social class differential in progression to higher degrees is used to test various sociological theories, particularly those proposed by Bourdieu. There is support for the concept of “institutional habitus” developed in recent UK studies. It is concluded that there is scope for further in-depth empirical research into social class and postgraduate study.