University launches alternative funding initiative for postgraduate study

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Durham University has launched an innovative loan product for postgraduate students to help attract the most talented students to further their study at Durham upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

The University has collaborated with NEFirst, an established credit union in the North East, to deliver the service that will provide low cost ethical loans for UK postgraduate taught students of all ages.

Esther Green, Community Officer at Durham Students’ Union, said: “We welcome this new credit union project. This will provide much-needed access to funding for our postgraduate students. We are really pleased to see the University is trying something new to support the postgraduate community.”

As part of the process, the University carried out a feasibility study which examined the appetite for an initiative of its kind and informed the process of selecting a service partner.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) awarded the University funding to develop the project. The initiative forms part of the HEFCE’s £25 million national programme, the Postgraduate Support Scheme, to test models for supported progression into taught postgraduate courses in England.

Professor Tim Clark, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Chair of the Credit Union Steering Group at Durham University, said: “Postgraduate education gives our graduates a head start, equipping them with high-level skills to enable them to achieve their long term ambitions. We are therefore very excited to be able to offer this opportunity.

“Community is central to the setting up of a credit union; membership is based on a common bond shared by savers and borrowers. At Durham University, we have a very well established community and in the longer term, we will invite staff members to join the scheme.”

Dr Brooke Storer-Church, Postgraduate Policy Adviser at the HEFCE, said: “As one of our Postgraduate Support Scheme pilot projects, Durham University provided a valuable proof-of-concept project exploring the viability of establishing a credit union that could provide much needed financial support to postgraduate students.

“We support the collaboration between Durham and NEFirst credit union and welcome lessons that can be derived from it and shared more widely across the sector.”

Photograph: Durham University

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