Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Bolton Institute
As outlined in my response to the consequence
of the 1993 White PaperRealising Our Potential, any comments
are made within the context of a small-to-medium-sized higher
education institution that undertakes applied scientific and engineering
research concentrating upon regional company interactions. As
stated in our earlier memorandum, the previous White Paper benefited
our work and plans because of the recognition of the SME sector
and its need for support by OST funding sources, in particular.
In addition, the Foresight technology process has provided a catalyst
to this and has significantly influenced our industrial S&T
direction and funding.
The present White Paper is a logical extension
of its predecessor and rightly focuses on the need to promote
scientific excellence. To attempt to attract more young people
into science ("Science Year 2001-02") is to be applauded
as is the decision to raise postgraduate support for new science
and engineering graduates who otherwise may be dissuaded from
proceeding to postgraduate research training.
However, two major decision-assisting factors
for young people are missed by the paper. These are:-
the improved remuneration for science,
maths and technology teachers in schools, to attract the most
highly talented graduates into the profession, and
the perceived value placed on science
and engineering by young people.
UK society, in spite of its history of producing
world class scientists and engineers, does not value them as highly
as other professionals such as doctors, accountants and lawyers.
In Germany and France, for example, they are more highly valued.
This view by the young in particular, is partly a consequence
of their relatively poor earning potential whether real or perceived.
Talented teachers and initiatives like "Science Year 2001-02"
will excite young people but their decisions to pursue a scientific
or engineering career is largely based on expected earning potential.
It is well known from remuneration surveys (eg The Royal Society
of Chemistry) that practising scientists and engineers are paid
less than those pursuing non-practising careers and most will
be paid less than doctors, lawyers accountants and members of
financial houses. What is the White Paper doing to address the
value that UK Society places on its scientists?It is silent!
The decline in graduates in these disciplines,
highlighted in the White Paper, will only be reversed if status
and value (and hence remuneration) by society are enhanced. It
will probably be seen in the immediate future that student debt
will exacerbate this "drift away from science"where
are the "golden hellos" being offered to scientists
and engineersnot from industry or public employers but
from the commercial and especially financial sectors where their
talents are more fully recognised?.
We note that the White Paper identifies that
the "knowledge-intensive" sectors account for 38 per
cent of the value of the London Stock Exchange for 1998. It proposes
that these high technology sectors should be the focus of our
activities. Little or no mention is made of the other (and larger)
62 per cent which probably contains the majority of the so-called
traditional wealth-creating areas many of which (eg chemicals,
aerospace, etc,) are still knowledge-intensive. They also employ
the majority of our present scientists and engineers. Does the
White Paper propose that we should neglect these areas? It is
noteworthy that the USA and EU member states are all focusing
upon this same 38 per cent (as indeed are some of the so-called
developing nations)competition will be immense and is the
market large enough? Surely, elements of the remaining 62 per
cent should now be seen as niche opportunities for the UK (since
our competitors no longer appear to be interested in them)? It
is interesting to note the importance given by the White Paper
to nanotechnology; I would suggest that chemists were the first
nanotechnologists and that they still remain in the van of modern
developments in this "new" discipline. The White Paper
and the London Stock Exchange do not realise or wish to acknowledge
Innovation cannot happen without a renewable
human resource having excellent educational backgrounds in science
and engineering. It is interesting that while the White Paper
announces £1 billion in partnership with the Welcome Trust
for infrastructure, only £140 million is being announced
for the HE Innovation Fund. The former will fund the traditional
university sector (as did the previous £1 billion) which
probably interacts to a limited extent with regional communities
and local SMEs. It is hoped, although unlikely, that most of the
£140 million may be focussed upon the newer universities
which have the better record of serving their regional and local
communities. Taken as a nationwide figure, I would suggest that
this will add only marginal value to present HEROBC initiatives.
Furthermore, if it is to be distributed within the current "bid
philosophy" then the administrative costs will once again
be borne by the HE community; its attractiveness will be influenced
by this factor.
In conclusion, while the White Paper offers
some good news, especially with regard to some improved regional
and small business funding, it will not change the drift away
from science of young people in spite of improved "A"
level performance in schools across all subjects. It is interesting
to note that the engineering professions in attempts to raise
the status of engineers have merely driven up the minimum "A"
level point requirements for students entering accredited engineering
courses. This has had the following effects:-
(i) it has helped reduce the numbers of total
BEng students entering accredited courses;
(ii) it has produced closures of engineering
(iii) it has virtually closed down part-time
higher educational routes on accredited courses.
Had the professions attempted to raise the stature
and remuneration of their members, then different and most likely
reverse trends might have been seen. The Government is in a position
to significantly influence the culture of UK society towards its
scientists and engineers and it is unfortunate that the White
Paper does not address this issue at all.
10 January 2001