UK's leading universities face stiff global competition for postgraduates

06 January 2010

The UK’s leading universities are in danger of losing out on the best postgraduate students unless they are able to rise to the challenge of increasingly fierce global competition.

Responding to a Government consultation, The Russell Group of 20 leading research-intensive universities has submitted evidence on the future of postgraduate provision in universities.

In its submission to the review by Sir Adrian SmithThe Russell Group highlights that, although the UK has a strong reputation for postgraduate education, its international competitiveness is under threat from a number of recent developments. These include: a drop in UK funding aimed at attracting the most talented overseas researchers, US universities and other international institutions able to provide quality facilities along with generous bursaries, and an expansion of overseas institutions who are offering high-quality courses taught in English.

The Russell Group also points to evidence which suggests that postgraduate education, particularly valuable doctoral programmes, needs to be underpinned by world-leading research and supported by a critical mass of researchers and excellent facilities. In order for the UK to continue to attract and produce the very best researchers, funding should be targeted on those institutions most capable of delivering the very best research and postgraduate provision.

Commenting on the submission, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of The Russell Group, said:

“This review is timely as postgraduate students will be increasingly important for the UK as we seek to create a more skilled and highly qualified workforce. We need to create the best possible environment for attracting the brightest minds to conduct research at UK universities at a time when international students are being offered more financial support by many universities abroad, particularly in the US.
“The evidence suggests that PhD students thrive in research-intensive environments and that backing institutions with a critical mass of research activity benefits the graduate students as well as being the most productive way to fund research.”

Submission to the Smith review of postgraduate provision

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