Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The creation of the position of the Director General for Higher Education is welcomed and Sir Alan Wilson has the right credentials for the job. Our only disappointment is he joins the Department after the publication of the Higher Education White Paper. An earlier appointment would have been preferable, to enable the incumbent to help shape the Higher Education Bill which the Department is required to implement. (Paragraph 4)

2.  We are concerned that the Director General for Higher Education knew so little about the Bologna Process. The science community is looking for leadership from the Government on this issue, and on the evidence of Sir Alan's comments, it is unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future. We recommend that he take steps to initiate a national debate among universities, ensure that the issues are well understood in the higher education sector and press for action where necessary. (Paragraph 7)

3.  We are concerned that the relationship of the DfES, and in particular the Director General for Higher Education, with HEFCE is not clear and that there could be confusion over HEFCE's ability to make decisions on the allocation of its grants. Subtle shifts in funding by HEFCE can have a big effect on universities. The Director General for Higher Education needs to be clear about what his role is in intervening. (Paragraph 8)

4.  We are concerned that the Director General for Higher Education knew little about the Voluntary Vetting Scheme. A successful scheme that helps to prevent the UK becoming a training ground for terrorists needs a coordinated approach from UK universities and Sir Alan must play an active part. We recommend that he takes this up with the Foreign Office. (Paragraph 9)

5.  We are pleased that Sir Alan is an advocate of evidence-based policy. If he is to bring this to bear on Government higher education policy he should be in a position to ensure that appropriate and reliable data are gathered, which cannot be airily dismissed as a result of the many and serious imperfections of social science. (Paragraph 11)

6.  We are disappointed that Sir Alan does not see a greater role for Government intervention to maintain university research and teaching capacity in key disciplines. (Paragraph 13)

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