Feeds

MPs call for radical reform of UK university science

Change, or fizzle out

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The House of Commons select committee for science and technology has called for a radical reform in the way universities organise and fund the teaching of science subjects.

It says short-termism has led to a decline is students graduating with science degrees, and has prompted departmental closures. Acknowledging that there is unlikely to be a sudden influx of extra cash, the committee instead proposes a totally new approach.

At the moment, university departments are graded on a scale of 1 - 5*, and future funding is determined according to the grade. A 5* or 5 rating is only awarded to a "world class" facility, and will get considerably more money than a department that wins a rating of 4, reflecting a status of "national excellence".

Universities that don't get a 5 or 5* rating often struggle to improve. The Register understands that such institutions often have trouble attracting the best research staff, because of fears in the academic community that a rating of four means a department is almost certain to close.

Exeter and Newcastle universities have recently pulled the plug on some science degrees. Exeter closed its chemistry department, and Newcastle shut down pure physics. The committee says this is also a result of short, rather then long-term planning.

In a report (pdf) Strategic Science Provision in English Universities, the committee said "Unless some important long term measures are taken to ensure the sustainability of the sector, the Government may find that it does not have enough STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates to meet its economic goals," the report cautions.

Instead, it wants universities to specialise, playing to their strengths, to avoid further closures. It says universities also need to work together, using a "hub and spokes" system. Under this scheme, instead of all 130 universities competing for funds, institutions should collaborate, and pool resources under the guidance of a new Regional Affairs Committee.

This committee would make sure that each region had at least one major "research hub" in each of the core disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Other universities would then focus on research, teaching or knowledge transfer, and bid for funds accordingly.

However, the suggestion has not been well received. "Collaboration is already a natural and integral part of higher education in the UK at all levels of academic activity, in both teaching and research, and the sector is in the best position to explore how this can be enhanced and built on," a spokesman for Universities UK told the BBC. "A rigid structure that is imposed by the funding councils or government - as the committee suggested - would be not be desirable." ®

Related stories

Scientists complain of industrial meddling in research
How computers make kids dumb
MPs condemn e-Uni disaster - again

Business security measures using SSL

More from The Register

next story
'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux
Multiple desktops and live tiles in restored Start button star in new vids
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
SUSE Linux owner Attachmate gobbled by Micro Focus for $2.3bn
Merger will lead to mainframe and COBOL powerhouse
iOS 8 release: WebGL now runs everywhere. Hurrah for 3D graphics!
HTML 5's pretty neat ... when your browser supports it
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.