On the 20th May 2004, four representatives from NPC (Tim Brown, Tim Roll-Pickering, Chris Neville-Smith and Tasha Hirst) went along to the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to meet Alan Johnson MP, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education. The meeting discussed a number of items including issues around career development loans, NPC's efforts on lobbying Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to fund taught postgraduate courses, issues around new EU students being charged overseas fees and widening participation towards postgraduate education.
All present felt the meeting was a very positive opportunity to lobby government on some of the key issues concerning NPC at present not only relating to the higher education bill but also in terms of how postgraduate education in the UK needs to widen its participation and not become increasingly reliant on international intake, who are a significant income source to higher education. There was a strong appreciation from Mr Johnson that the white paper has not focused on taught postgraduates and that the concerns of the career development loan and its lack of compatibility with the future proposals on the student loan do need to be reviewed. NPC did stress at the very least the loan be extended to postgraduates, which was appreciated as necessary although funding to subsidise this may not necessarily be readily available.
Warm support was given for our efforts to lobby RDAs to fund taught postgraduate courses, which NPC hopes will move forward in the future. Further to this, there was useful discussion on the widening participation into postgraduate education following conclusions from our annual conference. The need for further research in this area was certainly acknowledged and Mr Johnson expressed interest in further evidence from us on the subject. We were consequently actioned to send more information on this but also at the same time were able to note that widening participation was more than social class inclusion and should include women, ethnic groups, disabled students and others whom have been traditionally disadvantaged by circumstances. Some coverage of the EU accession students was also given, which will be covered later in this edition of the newsletter. More details about the meeting can be seen from our features archive at www.npc.org.uk/features.