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Opinion | Bristol's alumni discount could make or break studying a Masters

Bristol's alumni discount allows students to pay less when continuing at the university for a postgraduate degree. Seb Davies explores whether this has any impact however on the accessibility of Masters programs.

By Seb Davies, Philosophy, Third Year

Moving into third year, you begin to notice the increased discussion around life after university, and what the scary reality of graduating actually means for you. For many students this involves looking at a Master’s degree, yet the financial implications of this further study creates barriers to more students staying on at university.

As a final year Philosophy student, the idea of another year studying philosophy is incredibly appealing, yet to undertake such a course would set me back £14,000 just for the tuition fees alone. Now this is reduced by the ‘alumni discount’, a 25% discount offered to those students who stay in Bristol and progress with further study, but even with the alumni discount the cost of a masters programme would come to £10,500. 

 A saving of £3,500 is certainly appealing, and is a great way for the university to attract more students to further study, but it still remains as to how students are to find such a large sum of money, especially given that the student finance system differs at postgraduate level. Under the student finance system that currently exists, students are eligible to get up to £12,167 in loans, yet this is to cover both tuition fees and living costs, unlike at the graduate level where the two are covered by different loans. Even with the alumni discount I would be eligible to receive as a Bristol student, I would certainly need to keep my part-time job in order to fund living in the city. However without the discount it seems as though a Master’s programme would be untenable for me, as well as for a great deal of other students.

 Whilst I feel the alumni discount is doing something positive to encourage more students to look at staying in Bristol, it still fails to provide opportunities across the board to encourage everyone to consider the idea of a Masters degree. A Bristol Post article recently noted how Bristol is now the most expensive city to live in, in the UK besides London. The money required to afford the tuition fees as well as the incredibly expensive living costs found in Bristol highlights how studying for a Masters is inaccessible to a great deal of people. Thus I feel that the alumni discount actually does very little to make postgraduate study more accessible to the majority.

However, for many of those able to find the money for a Masters course, it is the alumni discount that makes or breaks the decision to continue studying in Bristol or not undertake a postgrad degree. For many courses, to leave Bristol and study elsewhere it is several thousands of pounds more expensive, and that is certainly the difference between being able to afford a Masters and opting to not do one.

I feel the alumni discount is a positive scheme, and I am not by any means suggesting that it is bad that the university offers a generous discount to alumni. However I do think it opens up a discussion about how expensive postgraduate study is, and how the amount of money required to do one perpetuates inequalities amongst students. The alumni discount for many students supports, yet limits them to remaining in Bristol. But if we were to have a general tuition fee much like at undergraduate level across the board, perhaps it would be more accessible, and postgraduate study wouldn’t be dependent on familial wealth.

Featured Image: Milan Perera

Do you think that alumni discounts help to make postgraduate study more accessible?