The last decade has witnessed an unprecedented growth in the numbers of those entering higher education, which have almost doubled. It has also been a period of considerable change, including the creation of the ‘new universities’, and the introduction of means tested fees for students and the abolition of the maintenance grant.
There is a growing body of anecdotal and statistical evidence to support the view that the overall numbers of home-based postgraduate students are falling, and that many of the most able people, in some subjects especially, are turning away from graduate studies. Indeed, in certain disciplines and institutions, what used to be a predominantly British cohort of students has been replaced by a predominantly overseas one. Earlier this year, the Council of the Academy decided to establish a Committee of enquiry into graduate studies in the UK, in response to concerns that they were in decline.
The Graduate Studies Review Committee has been asked to examine and report on the current state of postgraduate studies in the humanities and social sciences. Accordingly, the Review Committee will gather statistical data on the composition of the postgraduate student popu-lation, analysing in particular the proportion of home-based students and the sources of their funding. Members will consider the present financial arrangements and any particular factors that act as a disincentive to postgraduate study; make relevant international comparisons; and consider the implications for the health of the various academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and the recruitment of the next generation of staff in UK universities.
The Review Committee held its first meeting on 30 June 2000, where it determined the structure and format of the exercise. The Academy’s Sections will be consulted in January 2001 on the general outline of the Review and its chief subject-specific findings. Section Standing Committees will be consulted in advance this autumn.
It is anticipated that the Committee will meet three times and it is intended that it will present its report by June 2001.
The Graduate Studies Review Committee is chaired by Professor R.J. Bennett, and the other members are Professor J.S. Bell, Professor J.K. Davies, Professor H. Goldstein, Professor M.E. Hobson, Professor T. Ingold, Baroness O’Neill, Professor P.A. Slack and Professor K.F. Wallis.
This article published in Review, January-July 2000.