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Funding boost for local students

Financial support is on offer to local students entering postgraduate courses at Coventry University as part of a new initiative

Scholarships will be made available to cover the fees of 40 postgraduate students entering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses next September. The scholarships are being funded through a new nationwide research project in which Coventry University is playing a major role.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) recently launched its new £25million Postgraduate Support Scheme which aims to encourage and support students who would not otherwise progress to Masters level courses.

Twenty pilot projects, involving over 40 universities across the country, make up the scheme and Coventry is part of the largest collaborative project, headed up by Kingston University and focusing on STEM related subjects.

The project team at Coventry, led by engineering lecturer Dr Phil Lewis, aims to uncover and overcome the barriers that prevent students progressing to the postgraduate stage. The team will be working with employers to get a feel for what they’re looking for in Masters level students and they’ll also be monitoring the progress of the students themselves to determine whether the education experience matches their expectations.

The long-term aim of the project is to improve the quality of STEM related postgraduate programmes, enhance their appeal amongst employers and students alike, and increase uptake – particularly amongst those who are underrepresented on these courses.

The awarding of the fee scholarships along with other support mechanisms that will be put in place during the project is a first step towards persuading more students to go down the postgraduate route.

Coventry University project leader Dr Phil Lewis said: “This project should result in more targeted and sustainable support for postgraduate students along with improved course design which will provide these students with the skills required by businesses and industries.

“We’re part of a national strategy that’s focussed on boosting our competiveness in the science and technology sector but on a local level we want to encourage greater uptake to meet the demands of our regional economy.

“There are good career outcomes for postgraduate students in STEM related subjects but we understand that there are barriers preventing people from pursuing these programmes. We’re confident that this project and the help and support that it entails will help us to sweep away these obstacles.”

When the scholarship criteria are finalised in early 2014 details, including the application process, will be published on the Coventry University website.

Plymouth, Portsmouth, Brighton, Wolverhampton, Lincoln, Teesside and Manchester Metropolitan are the other English universities involved alongside Coventry in the Kingston consortium. All told, the project has been awarded £2.7million which includes £1.85milion from HEFCE along with contributions from the other project stakeholders. The project gets under way in January 2014 and is expected to conclude in March 2016.