Boffin shortage will blight Blighty's prosperity
Report: Soft PhDs no way to earn hard currency
The UK's top scientific body has warned that the swarms of new PhDs being churned out by British universities include a falling proportion from scientific or technological disciplines. It is feared that this lack of knowhow may render Blighty uncompetitive in the hi-tech, value-added sectors which alone can support Western levels of affluence.
In a report published yesterday, the Royal Society says that doctorates are being handed out like plastic cutlery these days, with the number issued up by 79 per cent over the past decade. But qualifications from the hard-sums departments - physics, chemistry, engineering and technology - are still being issued at much the same rate as ten years ago. Biological sciences have in theory grown massively, but this doesn't mean the UK of tomorrow will be strong in genetics or pharmaceuticals: those numbers come from a huge boom in courses such as psychology and sports science.
"Postgraduate study in the UK is very successful in terms of the overall numbers of people studying and the income generated [for universities]," said Professor Judith Howard, speaking for the Society working group which authored the report.
But the prof said that in terms of producing arse-kicking boffins with brainpower sufficient to drive a modern developed economy, UK higher education wasn't doing the business.
"The skills base our economy needs is still well behind our competitor economies," she said. "The technological breakthroughs that are required to keep us competitive will come from our labs but only if they have enough people with the best education."
A swarm of MBAs and people with PhD theses in the politics of 1930s Hungarian love poetry isn't going to be much use. But it's all too easy to see why students go for the easy, mellow subjects; you actually have to work hard in the more economically valuable areas, and to add insult to injury the fees are often significantly higher too.
The boffinry bigwigs reckon that only serious money from both government and industry can reverse the atrophy of the nation's intellectual muscles. They say that fees must come down in the shortage areas; also that the full eight years of study it takes from starting a first degree to getting a scientific PhD should be funded, rather than only seven. (At present, many hard-sums PhD students have to pay for the missing year from private resources.)
Sir Tom McKillop, another of those involved in drafting the report, said: "It is graduates in science and technology who will be leading the innovation necessary to drive the UK's economy forward in the future. We cannot expect to achieve that on the cheap."
Read the report, A Higher Degree of Concern, here (pdf). ®
Capitalist states are not capitalist free markets and along a continuum they come closer to socialism than they do to true free markets.
People like Freidman and Hayek adopted by Mrs Thatcher (rolling back the State), was rhetoric only...there are still massive payments to the corporations. The US is basically a war economy, using Cold War and now the 'war on terror' to give massive payouts to corporations to fund R&D in war which have spin offs in the market. Universities have links to businesses and arms manufacture.
Hayek was probably given wealth by people who wanted to use his rhetoric to reduce welfare to the poor, not welfare to the rich.
Sceintists need to critically know about their position, who they are working for, what they are helping produce and how (politics and sociology), a narrow technical specialism which simply creates a technical person who knows how to produce the end product (possibly a WMD) without any idea of the big picture and how they help re-produce concentrations of private power, is a weakness.
PhDs in science are too narrow and they produce a technically proficient person who is unbalanced and a 'whore' who sells his/her services to the highest bidder no matter what destruction they create.
Sadam and the US/UK States have plenty of PhDs who help them make weapons and probably helped produce the Internet as a commerical spin off (is this really a good thing?).
Although socialism was indeed a creature of academics which leaked out as toxic waste is wont to do, the vast majority of economists these days are either at the position of regarding the level of the state as roughly optimal or advocate less of it.
Modern ideas of the market economy have their heart at the university of chicago, and places like the London School of Economic which used to be the anus of the dimwitted socialist movement is now pretty hardline about the utility of markets, and produces hordes of people who are valued by banks.
Just another report encouraging the State to interfere with the labor market and to spend more money so that the universities can benefit?
Why not stop taxing us and leave us alone to pay for our own education? How is that for a revolutionary idea? How come professors who work for the State at Universities never recommend less State power? Less taxation?