Memorandum from the Department of Trade
CORUS plc - Research and Development (HC110)
1. The restructuring of Corus's Research and Development
facilities is, of course, a commercial matter for Corus. The Government
will, however, continue to assist in supporting the retention
of a significant amount of R&D activity in the UK.
2. Corus's restructuring of its R&D facilities
in the UK unfortunately involves job losses in the UK. The Government's
understanding of the rationale for this restructuring is that
it is to avoid the inefficient duplication of research resources
following the merger. Prior to the merger there were three R&D
facilities in the UK and one in The Netherlands. Similar research
was being carried out in each country. For example, both countries
conducted research into steel packaging. Following the merger,
there will be one R&D facility in each country of roughly
equal size (approximately 400 staff each). Each operation will
concentrate on those areas where the equipment and expertise of
its personnel are best placed to deliver the most effective research
effort for the company.
3. Although no final decision has been made, we understand
that Corus are giving serious consideration to locating their
UK research centre at a new Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sheffield,
which is being established by the Regional Development Authority,
Yorkshire Forward (this is referred to in the latest DTI White
Paper). The DTI has already been involved in discussions about
the possible location of a steel research facility on this site.
Further discussions are due to take place soon which will involve
Corus and Yorkshire Forward. Whatever Corus's final decision about
where to site its R&D centre, the DTI stands ready to assist
Corus, both by providing advice and by pursing policies designed
to assist Corus in increasing its competitiveness by maintaining
a significant level of its R&D effort in the UK.
4. The Committee also expressed concern about the
current state of physical science teaching in the UK. OFSTED reports
that science teaching at ages 11- 16 is satisfactory in 9/10 lessons
and good or very good in 6/10. To build on this strong position,
the Government is actively supporting teachers to become reflective
practitioners who seek and adopt new teaching strategies and approaches
to raise standards in the classroom. The science strand of the
Key Stage 3 strategy, which will roll out nationally from September
2002, will provide focussed professional development for all key
stage 3 science teachers in both pedagogical and subject knowledge.
In addition, we are investing £92 million to further strengthen
professional development opportunities for serving teachers.
5. Science Year will be launched in September 2001.
It will be targeted at 10-19 year olds and those who influence
them, including teachers. It will aim to increase young people's
engagement with science which we hope will lead to increased numbers
of pupils studying science to a higher level.
6. Claims that standards at A level are falling are
made every year but are not supported by evidence. The 1996 SCAA/OFSTED
report on exam standards over time, and subsequent follow up reports
(for the years 1996 and 1997), demonstrate that standards at A
level have been maintained for at least 20 years. The new A level
specifications that were introduced in September 2000 take account
of the recommendations in all the standards over time reports.
Better pass rates are down to students working harder, better
teaching and clearer information from the exam boards.
7. Public confidence in academic standards requires
public understanding of the achievements represented by Higher
Education qualifications. The National Framework of Qualifications
for England, Wales and Northern Ireland recently published by
the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) sets out
5 levels of HE qualification - 3 at undergraduate level (Certificate,
Intermediate and Honours) and 2 at postgraduate level (Masters
and Doctoral). For each level of the framework there is a descriptor
exemplifying the characteristics of the main qualification at
that level. Subject benchmarking statements are being developed
by QAA in partnership with the academic community. The statements
set out the general expectations about standards for award of
an honours degree in a subject, and where appropriate, include
details of professional body requirements. The subject benchmark
statement for Physics is due to be published later this year.
8. Universities are independent, autonomous bodies
responsible for determining their own academic and administrative
arrangements. It is up to institutions to work together with industry
bodies to ensure that qualifications match the demands of industry.
The Government is very keen to encourage this collaborative working.
Hence the funding made available through the Higher Education
Reach out to Business and the Community (HEROBC) Fund and the
recently established Higher Education Innovation Fund to increase
the capacity of institutions to respond to the needs of industry.
Department of Trade and Industry/Department for
Education and Employment
26 March 2001