Widening and sustaining postgraduate taught (PGT) STEM ... ... a. Setting the postgraduate taught (PGT)

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  • Widening and sustaining postgraduate taught (PGT) STEM study in the UK: a collaborative project Creating change through understanding expectations and attitudes towards PGT study, experiences and post-study outcomes from the perspective of applicants, students, universities and employers.

    Analysed and written by Michelle Morgan and Ines Direito Edited by Michelle Morgan

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    Contents Foreword 3 Dedication 5 Acknowledgments 6 List of Key Links and Institutional Researchers from the participating partners 7 Diagrams, figures and tables 9 Abbreviations and acronyms 13 Chapters: 1) Introduction 18

    a. Setting the postgraduate taught (PGT) scene 18 b. Rationale and outline of PSS Phase 1 funded by HEFCE 19

    2) Introduction to the Postgraduate Experience Project (PEP) 20 a. Background and rationale 20 b. Outline of aims, objectives and outcomes 20 c. Delivery of aims, objectives and outcomes 22 d. Approach to the PEP report 23 e. Approach to the research methodology 23 f. Data collection processes 23 g. Associated project documents 31

    3) PEP scholarships 32 a. Key points 32 b. Application and allocation process 32 c. Offers, acceptances and declines of PEP scholarships 36 d. Comment about the process 39 e. Comment on the PEP scholarships, applications and enrolments 39 f. Comment on the impact of the PEP scholarships 40

    4) Descriptives of the main surveys 42 a. Non-enrolment Groups A–D 42 b. Entry to Study 42 c. Finance 55 d. Employer 59 e. Integrated 60 f. Postgraduate Taught (PTES) 2015 (HEA) 62

    5) PGT study motivations and decisions 64 a. Key points 64 b. PGT study motivations 66 c. University and course choices 68 d. Expectations 73 e. Concerns, confidence and anxieties on starting PGT study 77 f. Support 84 g. Comment 87 h. Summary 89

    6) Finance 90 a. Key points 90 b. Funding PGT study 92 c. Search sources of funding 102

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    d. Financial barriers to PGT study 104 e. Importance of fee levels 107 f. Study debt 110 g. Financial anxiety levels and issues 115 h. Financial support 117 i. Respondents attitudes to the current funding regime 120 j. Viable funding options 120 k. Comment 121 l. Summary 123

    7) Learning and teaching 124 a. Key points 124 b. Expectations of how to study at PGT level 125 c. Previous academic feedback experience 126 d. Current academic feedback expectations 129 e. Current feedback experiences 133 f. Contact and independent study 134 g. Preferred method of learning and assessment 135 h. Learning and teaching satisfaction 137 i. Learning strengths and weaknesses 138 j. Comment 142 k. Summary 143

    8) Employability 144 a. Key points 144 b. Employment expectations 146 c. Immediate completion expectations and future impact 153 d. Company collaboration and engagement with higher education institutions 156 e. Comment 158 f. Summary 159

    9) Integrated study 160 a. Key points 160 b. Setting the scene 160 c. Funding and motivations 162 d. Comment 168 e. Summary 170

    10) Future challenges and moving forward 171

    11) Recommendations 180 References 181 Appendices (see separate document)

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    Foreword There has been a dramatic expansion in postgraduate taught study (PGT) in the UK in recent years, but this is now faltering, especially amongst UK domiciled students and those undertaking part-time study. As a result, sustaining the participation required to meet national skill needs as well as the PGT market in the UK has become a pressing challenge. Although there is a growing body of evidence looking at the postgraduate student experience, there is still a paucity of research exploring participation barriers, understanding students’ and employers’ expectations of PGT study, progression and retention, and post-study outcomes.

    The UK government is committed to the continued expansion of the postgraduate taught student body, particularly in STEM subjects, in order to improve the UK’s industrial and educational competitive global position. HEFCE understand that these are important areas to research if long-term approaches to stimulating and sustaining full-time and part-time PGT study in England (and other areas in the UK) are to be achieved.

    With the recent changes in the UK higher education landscape, the aim of this multi- institutional and stakeholder project was to provide valuable contributions in understanding, shaping and helping to sustain the PGT sector, at both institutional and national level. This project has addressed many of the neglected research areas mentioned above.

    This report details the key findings and suggests approaches to how PGT study can be stimulated, sustained, be inclusive and equitable in terms of participants, and meet the skill requirements of business and industry, and considers how institutional and national strategies can be developed in growing and sustaining the PGT market in the UK.

    David Mackintosh Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor Kingston University

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    Foreword The PEP project was born out of a long history of practical research I have undertaken over the years to improve the postgraduate taught student experience at the coal face as well as institutional strategy and policy. That research has been informed and shaped over the past decade by the work of organisations such as the Higher Education Policy Institute, UK Graduate Council for Education and the Higher Education Academy, as well as the individuals such as Dr Paul Wakeling, a key commentator and leader in the field, renowned widening participation champions such as Professor Sir David Watson, Professor Sir Peter Scott and Professors Mary Stuart and Geoff Layer, and Professors Sally Brown and Phil Race who have developed learning and teaching approaches at postgraduate level.

    My motivation in constructing the aims and objectives of the PEP project was to obtain a base line of data from a significant number of universities across the UK that provided a map of knowledge in understanding the attitudes, expectations, barriers and expected outcomes of applicants, students, university staff and employers in, through and out of the postgraduate taught STEM study cycle. The outcomes were to use the findings to help inform and shape institutional and national initiatives, strategies and policy in supporting, widening and importantly, sustaining PGT study in the UK.

    The aims and objectives have been achieved as a result of the senior university managers, project institutional key links, researchers and other key colleagues in all of the universities and business and industry involved in PEP being committed, engaged and dedicated to the achieving them. The project has already generated immediate outcomes, with the universities in PEP using the findings to enhance their internal processes such as admissions and marketing, learning and teaching and non-academic support services. Some of the practical initiatives specifically developed and implemented as a direct result of the project can be found in the Good Practice Guide document. Many of the findings have already contributed to national debates and activities such as the discussion on student loans, a comprehensive and effective admissions process at PGT level and the development of a national PGT expectations survey on entry. There is one stage of the project currently being completed and that is examining the destination outcomes of the PEP scholarship recipients. The findings will be published in Briefing Paper on the project website.

    This report has been written so readers can easily dip in and out of the different themed chapters. Hopefully, as you read through the chapters of this report, you will also see the complexity of issues and challenges that applicants, students, university staff and employers at PGT-level study face, which became evident to the project partners as the findings emerged. Although the findings in this project are for STEM disciplines only, many of the findings could easily be applicable to students in different disciplines and across other institutions.

    PEP has highlighted that in order to obtain a full understanding of the challenges facing us as individual educators and senior managers at both institutional and national level in improving, widening and sustaining PGT study requires not only further research across many more institutions in the UK, but also on an international level in order to understand competing markets, motivations and barriers facing EU and overseas applicants and students coming to the UK.

    Michelle Morgan Principal Investigator and Project Lead Postgraduate Experience Project

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    Dedication

    The right to learn throughout life is a human right

    Professor Sir David Watson 1949 - 2015

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    Acknowledgments The Postgraduate Experience Project would like to thank a number of people who helped make the project possible. These include:

    • the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for initiating the Postgraduate Support Scheme in England and making a difference to so many lives;

    • Brooke Storer-Church, Paul Wakeling and Chris Millward for all their support and advice to PEP;

    • all of the senior managers at the institutions who agreed to participate in PEP due to their determination to help shape and support the widening of postgraduate taught STEM participation;

    • all of the academic and professional staff across the 11 participating institutions who helped implement the project;

    • colleagues at Kingston University for their hard work in hel