Feeds

MPs call for radical reform of UK university science

Change, or fizzle out

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
Google opens Inbox – email for people too stupid to use email
Print this article out and give it to someone techy if you get stuck
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.