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Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, I hope that that will be translated into more money for WISE.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I feared that money might be at the back of the noble Baroness's thoughts somewhere; I cannot make any promises from my humble position here this evening. Nevertheless, the case has been made well and I endorse that.

I also emphasise the point made by my noble friend Lord Haskel about EMTA's work. It is important to co-operate with employers and to recognise their role in relation to such work. The noble Lord, Lord Freeman, emphasised that industry could perhaps play a more proactive part with regard to

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support in higher education. That is not to underestimate the current links, although more can clearly be done. Against the background of the well-recognised financial constraints in higher education, the support that industry can offer is obviously welcome and we encourage it. We also want to see the development of vocational skills in higher education. The concept behind the foundation degree is that students should be able to engage for two years in degree-level studies that have a strong vocational dimension—which relate to the world of work—and they should subsequently choose whether to go on to a full honours degree in their subject; alternatively, we may have established, through the foundation degree, a higher skill level in terms of vocational skills at a level that enjoys repute and which will be supported.

We are committed to ensuring an adequate supply of science, engineering and technology graduates with the right skills to meet the economy's needs. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, referred to the Roberts inquiry; Sir Gareth's report in April was of tremendous importance. It acknowledged that overall the UK has a relatively large and growing number of students studying for scientific and technical qualifications. We should recognise that more young people in the UK have science and engineering degrees than in most other OECD countries. Of the G7 nations, only France has more qualified graduates than we do. We responded to Sir Gareth's report as positively as we could.

With regard to the Government's concern about science and the amount of expenditure that is necessary for it, Investing in Innovation announced the largest sustained growth in science, engineering and technology expenditure for a decade.

Therefore, this evening I am seeking to recognise the concerns of all those who have an interest in engineering. I appreciate that we are dealing with a difficult subject in educational terms because it is a breadth of disciplines rather than a single one. It is not a subject that is taught directly in schools. Therefore, the joys and opportunities of acquiring the skills and embarking on a career associated with engineering must be communicated more successfully to students. I believe that the House will recognise that an important part of the Government's whole educational perspective is to increase and improve careers advice to young people so that they may be set on the best course as early as possible.

Against that background, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, will feel that, in promoting the debate this evening, he has brought to the attention of the nation the difficulties facing engineering. At the same time, I hope that he will recognise that the Government are with him entirely in responding to his call for a proactive response to the needs of engineering.

        House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before nine o'clock.


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