Budget 2015: Government strengthens support for postgrad students

Loans of up to £25,000 will be available for postgraduate PhD and research-led masters students, announces George Osborne in the 2015 Budget

Loans of up to £25,000 will be available for postgraduate PhD and research-led masters students, chancellor George Osborne has announced in his last budget before the May general election.

It follows the introduction of £10,000 loans for students taking masters degrees, which was unveiled during the Autumn Statement in December 2014.

During his 2015 Budget speech, Osborne said: “Future economic success depends on future scientific success. So we’ll add to the financial support I announced at the Autumn Statement for postgraduates, with new support for PhDs and research-based masters degrees.

“We’re also committing almost £140m to world-class research across the UK into the infrastructure and cities of the future, and giving our national research institutes new budget freedoms.”

Back in December 2014, Osborne said up until now there had been “almost no financial support available, and the upfront costs of postgraduate degrees deter bright students from poorer backgrounds”.

During his Budget 2015 speech, he also announced new measures to support scientific research and jobs in science and innovation.

According to Osborne, the government aims to develop a “more highly skilled UK labour market by strengthening support for postgraduate research and apprenticeships, and setting out plans for further investment in the UK’s world-leading science and innovation base”.

The government will also invest £400m to 2020/21 for the “next round of funding for cutting-edge scientific infrastructure”.

“Budget 2015 confirms that the government will invest a further £100m in cutting-edge research projects through the current UK Research Partnership Investment Fund round,” Osborne said.

Read more about the Budget 2015

The Budget also saw an extension to the Skills Investment Fund, injecting a further £4m to continue matching fund support for training and development in film, television, visual effects, video games and animation for a further two years.

The government is also aiming to promote a “vibrant business environment for new and growing video games companies across the UK” by investing £4m in a new Video Games Prototype Fund. Over the next four years the fund will aim to help companies access finance and target games development talent.

It was recently announced that the government has given the go-ahead for a Northern Futures University Technical College (UTC) in a bid skill up young people in information technology and healthcare sciences.

Unveiled by Osborne, the Northern Futures UTC aims to be open in September 2017 and is targeted at students aged between 14 and 18. The curriculum will be designed to equip students with skills for "careers of the future".

A number of sites in the centre of Newcastle are being considered for the college's location. IT employers involved in the UTC so far are Accenture, Sage, HP. 

Apprenticeships vouchers

The government recently announced that the national minimum wage will increase by 3% to £6.70 per hour, effective from October 2015. In addition, the national minimum wage for apprentices will increase by 57p an hour to £3.30. The government will also launch a consultation with businesses on the future of the national minimum wage rate for apprentices.

It also announced a digital apprenticeship voucher, which is aimed at giving employers “purchasing power” after a two-year debate over the rerouting of funding.

As announced in the Autumn Statement 2013, the government and employers make cash contributions towards the cost of training for apprentices.

Apprenticeship funding has traditionally gone directly to training providers, with the apprenticeship voucher aiming to give more control over the government’s contribution to apprenticeship training.

Employers will need to register their details on a system which is being developed by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). The system will calculate a discounted rate at which they can purchase training. The voucher code generated will be passed on to the training provider by the employer, which can be redeemed with the SFA.

On the announcement, prime minister David Cameron said: "At the heart of our long-term economic plan for Britain is a simple idea – that those who put in, should get out; that hard work is really rewarded; that the benefits of recovery are truly national.

“That’s what today’s announcement is all about – saying to hard-working taxpayers, this is a government that is on your side. It will mean more financial security for Britain’s families and a better future for our country.”

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg added: “This is just one of the many ways in which we’ve created a fairer society while building a stronger economy. If you work hard, this government is behind you all the way.

“Whether you’re on low pay or starting your dream career through an apprenticeship, you will get more support to help you go further and faster.”

The scheme aims to be tested and fully implemented by 2017.

Read more on IT technical skills