Merton has a long and distinguished reputation as a global centre of academic excellence, with an active and hardworking student community. However, when it comes to supporting its graduate students financially, Merton struggles to compete with the generous scholarships offered by the most successful US Ivy League institutions. Compared to undergraduate provision, there is significantly less support available for students embarking on graduate studies. In addition, UK students in the current fee regime, faced with substantial debt to be repaid, may, in spite of new one year graduate loans offered from September 2016, be forced to recalibrate their ambitions and abandon graduate study altogether.
We risk closing off whole careers - including globally significant academic research careers and those that require higher degrees - to those who cannot finance themselves, unless we take the need for graduate funding seriously.
In the next phase of the College's development, we are focussing our energy and fundraising ambition on providing graduate scholarships and a research environment to rival those offered at competing institutions. The specific projects which will help us achieve this are:
Postgraduate study is quickly becoming an essential step for those seeking graduate employment. In the world of academia, graduates students are carrying out innovative research projects with far reaching implications, while entry-level jobs in the professional sector increasingly require a masters degree or specialist experience. There is insufficient funding from external sources to provide for the number of students wishing to continue their education past an undergraduate level, meaning that a masters or doctoral degree is too often closed to those without independent financial means.
Our aim over the coming years is to increase the number of graduate scholarships that Merton offers. The College is made up of roughly equal numbers of undergraduate and graduate students, but Merton struggles to compete with the provision of scholarships offered at the US Ivy League Institutions. A gift to Graduate Scholarships will not only benefit talented students who might otherwise struggle to fund themselves, but will also help us maintain the College's postion as a centre of academic excellence on the world stage.
Graduate students are the 'engine room of research'. Part of attracting and retaining the best students, teachers, and researchers is providing them with a space which is conducive to the collaboration and sharing of ideas that fuels their work.
Currently, there are no rooms in College that adequately facilitate such partnerships; students and Fellows are confined to their respective common rooms, and there is no area put aside for College staff at all. Discussions around the possibility of creating a place to address these needs in the centre of College are currently underway. This new room—the 'Merton Hub'—would act as the College bar and a cafe, with plenty of space for students, Fellows, and staff to work and socialise together. Some of the buildings in the centre of College - currently comprising of the bar, games room, and MCR - would be transformed into an open, modern, and adaptable space for all members of the College to use.
We know that bringing the College community together in this way works: several Oxford colleges and other universities around the world have embarked on similar projects and seen the benefits of encouraging collaboration between the various groups in their institution.
At the same time, the College plans to create a new Graduate Centre. We are fortunate that the Merton graduate population is very active, both socially and academically, making the College an attractive place to study, live and work. However, currently the only place in College dedicated for use by graduate students is the MCR, which does not adequately provide for the academic and social needs of such a large and vibrant community. The new Graduate Centre will provide graduate students with a flexible and adaptable space in which they can work, hold meetings, teach, and socialise.
The plans for both of these buildings are still in development, and we welcome all Mertonians who are interested in learning more or contributing during the early stages of these projects to contact us.
For more information on our fundraising priorities, please contact: