UK IT warned that postgraduate research costs to soar. Can IT suppliers help out?

An inevitable rise in tution fees for post-graduate courses could damage the UK’s standing in the global IT industry. But could the IT suppliers put their hands in their pockets and help universities find a way of lessening the blow?

I was at a round table hosted by Logica this week. One of the experts speaking was Anthony Finkelstein, dean of engineering sciences at University College London (UCL).

He said there will be a worrying knock-in effect of the increases in undergraduate tuition fees which have sparked a major storm since the government introduced rules that meant universities could charge anything up to £9000. See full story here.

But perhaps more worrying for the UK IT sector is that Finkelstein says fees in Masters degrees are set to rise substantially as a result.

He says postgraduate degrees that cost between £3,000 and £5,000 per year might rise to £10,000. “The full consequences of the undergraduate fees decision and the HE White Paper are yet to become clear. The broad direction of travel for institutions such as UCL is however, more or less apparent. It is appropriate that now some attention should focus on postgraduate taught provision, which forms a large part of our portfolio and that of other research-intensive universities,” Finkelstein recently blogged.

He said that although the full impact of the undergraduate fee rise is as yet unclear current fees will increase. “Obviously, the situation in which a full-year postgraduate course, with a lengthy dissertation requiring close supervision, would be priced below that of an undergraduate programme, of shorter duration and lesser intensity, is unsustainable. Thus it will be necessary for universities to raise the fees for most postgraduate taught masters (note: some professionally oriented courses already have high fees) to somewhere above the £9000 payable by incoming undergraduates.”

He said the university might have to lessen the blow to avoid potential students staying away. “At UCL we may choose to taper the fee increases in order to test the market and to subsidise some specific courses. Our capacity for continuing subsidies will however, necessarily be restricted, undergraduate students will expect the experience they are paying for and financially such subsidies are a zero sum game.”

See Finkelstein’s full blog post, which he published on July 14, here.

I was wondering if the IT industry could step in with some funding initiatives to help keep UK universities and research at the top of the global sector.

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The UK IT industry has largely failed to invest in training new entrants to the profession, or developing and retaining the skills of existing IT professionals, for more than 25 years, despite whining constantly about the alleged "skills shortage". While some of us try to invest in our own skills development, partly via increasingly expensive commercial and academic training, they prefer to subsidise the expansion of the Indian IT industry at the expense of the UK taxpayers and UK IT workforce. Why should they stop now?

Academic research should be insulated from commercial interests. Commerce should not infleunce the direction of research, nor should it be allowed to "own" the results of that research.

Post Grad students are the life blood of elite universities, LSE charges home students the same for most masters degrees as international (I paid 13K) But LSE is a bit special so can get away with it due to the massive demand to study there.

I'm doing another MSc at Imperial which is costing me a very reasonable £3,800, perversely a lot less than an undergraduate year from 2012.

I don't see there being upward pressure on post grad courses as these were never funded by the government and universities can charge whatever the market will take, but I get the feeling that my course at Imperial is subsidised (History of Science, Technology and Medicine), it's a great course, but I would not have paid another 13K for a second MSc.


Thanks for you feedback.

You say you don't think prices will go up I would question that because Anthony Finkelstein, Dean of engineering sciences at University College London (UCL), actually told me they will. As a Dean I would expect he is involved in setting fees.

I hope they don't go up.

Thanks again


The funding councils do give public money to subsidise the teaching and research costs of UK and EU (and about 20,000 overseas) post grads. The rest of the overseas post grads pay 'full' fees.

I suspect that if government cut funding for post grads then fees would rise significantly for all post grads (including many overseas post grads who are effectively cross subsidised from UK funds).

As doing a PhD actualy has a signficant negative effect on your earning potential, many less students will consider this option. It's probably only worth doing for many overseas students if it leads to residency.

Maybe the question that needs to be asked is why the UK produces so many PhDs without there being any clear economic need.

If the research is so valuable to industry then industry should fund it (which it does to a certain extent).

The other problem with most university reaearch is that it is shared internationally, so does not benefit the funding country significantly.