In the past ten years, postgraduate education in the UK has become a major international market with over 400,000 students. Although the postgraduate community may have increased in size, support structures, representation and identity for postgraduates has not grown at the same time. Therefore, the National Postgraduate Committee (NPC) constituted in 1992 set about to tackle the many issues on board that have since come about. We are the only organisation in the UK run by postgraduates in the interests of postgraduates including both taught and research.
Our mission is to advance, in the public interest, the education of postgraduate students within the United Kingdom. We shall achieve this by democratically representing postgraduates, contributing to discussions, supporting postgraduate representatives and facilitating communication between stakeholders.
Our vision is a postgraduate education system where:
- Applicants are assessed by their ability to learn not their ability to pay;
- Learning and research takes place in an environment which promotes and sustains equality of opportunity; and
- Adequate financial, intellectual, pastoral and social support mechanisms are provided.
Realising this vision would enable the individual student to maximise their own potential to the benefit of themselves, academic knowledge, the economy and society as a whole.
Although being in existence over ten years, the NPC became a registered charity following the approval of the new constitution at the 2002 annual conference. This will be of great benefit since financial support to the NPC will go further towards directly supporting postgraduates. Therefore supporting NPC is furthering its aim stated in the mission statement. There are two main sources of funding for NPC being affiliations from student representative bodies and individual donations. The committee itself is made up of delegates from affiliated institutions and recognised bodies who will approve the decisions and policies of NPC that are implemented by the Management Sub Committee (MSC), which is otherwise known as the executive. The NPC is an independent body that is not politically aligned.
NPC has been in close communication with education funding bodies and the government on pertinent issues concerning postgraduate education. Such bodies include the funding councils, research councils, QAA, UUK, SCoP amongst others. A great deal is also communicated to postgraduates via our online resources and also our services in the restricted web area open to affiliates. A range of information is available for prospective postgraduates through to The Journal of Graduate Education, which is owned by the NPC.
A number of bodies are associated with the NPC to work together on postgraduate issues where there is common interest, most notably the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE). NPC also has three recognised bodies at present being the National Union of Students (NUS), the Mature Students Union (MSU), the Council for International Students (CIS) and the Coalition for Higher Education Students in Scotland (CHESS). These four bodies are entitled to send one delegate member to vote and also submit motions that have mutual interest. The arrangement is normally reciprocal so NPC can also send a representative to those organisations.
The majority of NPCs work is conducted by the General Secretary who is employed full time. This involves being a contact point for NPC, dealing with administration and assisting the rest of the executive in compiling publications, seeking information and attending events that are of interest to postgraduates. The executive includes a chair, treasurer, equal opportunities officer and four project officers who take on specific projects pertinent to current postgraduate issues. There are also sub committees operating within Scotland and Wales each with respective a respective chair that reports to the executive. As well as campaigning for postgraduate interests nationally, the NPC offers support to student representative bodies regarding postgraduates where appropriate. Such support includes advice on postgraduate complaints and appeals, postgraduate representation and a national level interactive forum.
There are two main reasons why an institution would wish to affiliate to the NPC. The first point to bear in mind is that the NPC is a charity. Affiliation therefore involves supporting the organisation to further postgraduate education in a national capacity representing issues that are otherwise difficult to represent in the capacity of a single student representative body or postgraduate committee. Therefore it is an active way of supporting postgraduates where NPC as a charity will use income received by support from affiliates as best as possible.
The other main reason to affiliate is that the NPC can provide support and advice to representative bodies and postgraduate committees being the only UK organisation specialist in representing postgraduates nationwide. The General Secretary is contactable for this purpose. Further to this the NPC has produced a resource folder containing literature with advice and helpful information. Much of this information is made available to all postgraduates in an affiliated institution from the restricted area of the website, which will be of benefit to all postgraduates in an institution. Being a folder, information is added as time progresses so any additions are sent to affiliates.
In addition to the folder publications, affiliates are also sent a complimentary copy of The Journal of Graduate Education when it is published periodically. This is a journal set up where papers are submitted that cover topics from the postgraduate perspective. Examples of topics in recent editions include questions to expect in a doctoral viva and research into postgraduate teaching assistants.
How can affiliates use NPCs voice?
There are a number of ways in which affiliates can input into NPC. First of all the General Secretary is available to consult on any issues as discussed in the previous section. Secondly motions and agenda items can be taken to the meetings if a delegate wishes to raise a particular national level issue. Finally any other suggestions and ideas are welcome so that NPC can further the interests of its affiliates.
Further information can be obtained from the General Secretary on firstname.lastname@example.org. Also on the website it is possible to sign up to the NPCs mailing lists. Up to date information is delivered through the NPC, NPC Wales and NPC Scotland lists by occasional emails. Further to this, there is a Postgrad mailing list available for postgraduate related discussions.
The National Postgraduate Committee of the United Kingdom is a Scottish Charity Number SC033368