Response to Sutton Trust research on access to postgraduate study

24 June 2021

In response to the new Sutton Trust research on access to postgraduate study, Chantel Le Carpentier, Policy Analyst at the Russell Group, said:

"The Sutton Trust is right to highlight the need to tackle the barriers to low-income students progressing to postgraduate study. A high-quality postgraduate degree brings considerable benefits to individuals and the taxpayer through significant gains in lifetime earnings, as well as supporting the development of high-level skills that are vital to the economy.

"Russell Group universities have put in place a range of support and programmes to help those from disadvantaged backgrounds access and thrive in postgraduate study, including scholarships for underrepresented groups. Our work has found that with the right support and opportunities, outcomes for students at postgraduate level from underrepresented backgrounds can match those of their more advantaged counterparts.

"Postgraduate study is an important part of securing the pipeline of future skills the economy needs and we hope the Government considers access to postgraduate courses as part of its lifelong learning agenda."


Over 200,000 postgraduate students study at Russell Group universities, representing around 36% of all postgraduate students studying in the UK and over half (55%) of all postgraduate research students.

Examples of postgraduate access initiatives, bursaries and hardship funding provided by Russell Group universities include:

  • The University of Leeds offers PG scholarships for underrepresented groups, and have found that outcomes of these students at PG level are the same as their more advantaged counterparts with 100% continuation and high proportions of distinctions.
  • The University of Nottingham provides PG courses that are modular based, distance or flexible to fit around other commitments and remove barriers to some disadvantaged groups.
  • The University of Warwick offers a £10,000 scholarship for postgraduate courses after the HEFCE-funded PG Support Scheme came to an end.
  • LSE has a number of postgraduate scholarships and bursaries including specific scholarships for students with disabilities and means-tested funds to help pay for IT equipment. They also offer non-financial support in the form of mentoring for more disadvantaged and underrepresented students.
  • There are 50 scholarships worth £2,000 available to low-income students entering PG study at the University of Bristol in September 2022. A fee waiver worth £5,000 for PGT students will also be available for those in the PG access scheme.

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