Memorandum from EEF, the manufacturers
EEF-The manufacturers' organisation, has a membership
of 6,000 manufacturing, engineering and technology-based businesses
and represents the interests of manufacturing at all levels of
government. Comprising 11 regional Associations, the Engineering
Construction Industries Association (ECIA) and UK Steel, EEF is
one of the UK's leading providers of business services in health,
safety and environment, employment relations and employment law,
manufacturing performance, education, training and skills.
We believe that the issues surrounding the popularity
and success of science, engineering and technology subjects in
Higher Education are complex. There are issues relating to the
supply of suitable young people to study, which lead to problems
of low demand for these courses. Higher Education Institutions
(HEI) consequently struggle to maintain facilities and provision.
We have examined the causes of departmental closures below, and
suggest some ways in which the popularity of these subjects could
HEI DEPARTMENTAL AND
1. Lack of appropriate applicantsthe
individuals applying for courses in these subjects are not suitable
for high-level study, because they have not achieved the necessary
levels of learning in prerequisite subjects such as mathematics
2. Unpopularity of subjects in schoolscience,
engineering and technology can struggle to attract students at
A level, reducing the "pool" of students applying to
HE. These subjects are often perceived by students to be more
"difficult" than subjects in the arts or social sciences,
and therefore less appealing.
3. The relative cost of delivery of these
subjects can makes them hard to justifythey are highly
resource intensive in terms of facilities, staff and materials.
4. Unattractiveness of the HE "offer"
to a diverse cohortthere is not enough part-time and distance
learning for people already in work. There is also a lack of understanding
of the nature of prior qualifications and eligibility for entry
to courses. HEIs therefore exclude a number of individuals who
might make excellent students by failing to provide enough flexibility
in the access and delivery of courses.
AT HE LEVEL?
1. Demonstrable good employment prospects
for young people who undertake them. With increasing levels of
debt from higher education study, young people will expect to
see a return on their investment. Employers, professional bodies
and HEIs have a responsibility to provide accurate information
on employment levels and salaries to help inform the decision-making
2. Also key is good careers advice which
identifies individuals' strength and finds an HEI and course to
match (academic, vocational, large, small, etc). This is an imperative
at all levels of education, and one which EEF is actively campaigning
to improve. This advice and guidance should be based on factual
data, giving the individual all the appropriate information necessary
to make informed choices.
3. Government/HEI intervention to make them
cheaper to study than other subjects. This could be through fee
rebates, or other financial incentives such as free accommodation
for students in these departments.
4. Company sponsorshipthere is no
doubt that employers have a role to play in encouraging appropriate
individuals in their workforce to develop their skills to a high
level, utilising HE courses if necessary. Many employers do already
provide sponsorship and support, both for full and part-time participation.
5. Following from the sponsorship point
above, flexible entry criteria to HE courses, and flexible delivery
mechanisms are essential to provide high-quality candidates in
these subjects. Part-time students, former apprentices, and those
with vocational qualifications can boost the intake of science,
engineering and technology departments, as well as providing "real
world" experience to enrich the learning of all. These subjects
are significantly more attractive to prospective students when
they can see a wide range of people with different experience
6. Similarly, attracting and employing tutors
with real-world experience who are enthusiastic is extremely important
to sustain the popularity of these subjectsyoung people
and prospective students will want to study with people who are
at the fore-front of their field, and who also know how to apply
7. High levels of staff/student ratiospersonal
support and interaction with tutors gives students increased levels
of confidence necessary to cope with the demands of these subjects.
8. Facilities that are state of the art
and well-maintained, including information resources. This gives
young people confidence that their learning will be applicable
in the workplace. It also makes the subjects attractive to those
who wish to work on the "cutting edge" of new technology.
9. Links between HEIs and companies make
these subjects very attractive to students, particularly large
global employers. This can lead to high-level, sponsored research
within the department, as well as employment opportunities.
EEF made a response to the recent Higher Education
Funding Council for England (HEFCE) consultation on weightings
for science, engineering and technology subjects. We were extremely
alarmed at the proposed reduction in funding for engineering.
Our argument is that reducing funding for engineering subjects
is directly contrary to the current Productivity and Innovation
agenda, given impetus by the Roberts Review of Supply of Scientists
and Engineers, and Baroness Greenfield's report SETFAIR, that
science, engineering and technology based subjects make an invaluable
contribution to the wealth and well-being of the nation as a whole.
The work done by engineers and scientists in their chosen fields
keeps Britain at the forefront of research and development in
the global economy.
Additionally, a significant proportion of SET
students contribute to the wider economy through employment in
other occupations following graduation. The high levels of numeracy,
problem-solving and analytical skills which these courses develop
mean science and engineering graduates are in high demand throughout
the economy. The economy as a whole will therefore suffer if there
are fewer graduates in engineering and science.
We can see no justification for the selection
of these subjects for reduced funding. We do not believe that
they have become cheaper to deliver since the existing funding
structure was agreed. On the contrary, constant upgrading for
new technology, equipment and processes places increasing financial
demands on HEIs, who need to be confident that their resources
Similarly, the need for those teaching science,
engineering and technology degrees to continually update their
skills places a financial burden on institutions as they invest
in the continuing professional development of staff.
For engineering employers, one of the key elements
to higher education support is its geographical proximity to the
employer's premises. This is for a number of reasons:
1. For employees moving beyond apprenticeships,
and those already in work, part-time local provision is more likely
to be appealing than full-time. Many will want to continue in
their workplaces in some capacity, as well as taking the opportunity
to maintain some level of earnings during their study.
2. The engineering sector has always had
regional strengths. It is therefore essential that HEIs in areas
of high industrial concentration are encouraged to develop their
engineering and science provision, and that appropriate levels
of HEI places are available to the local population.
3. Engineering employers, because of the
physical nature of much manufacturing, can build strong links
with local education providers. While some companies may link
across wider distances, engaging with post-graduate research and
desk-based studies, others prefer to build local links which reflect
We strongly believe that Government should intervene
to protect subjects of strategic importance, incentivising these
subjects through HEFCE. We also believe that public government
support, backed by material funding, will underline the value
of science, engineering and technology subjects in the UK economy.
There is a continuing misapprehension, because some parts of the
sector are contracting, that there is no future for either the
sector or those who wish to make these subjects their career.
Rather, high-level skills in these sectors has never been more
valued or more sought after. The Pathfinder Sector Skills Agreements
currently being developed by SEMTA (the Sector Skills Council
for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies) strongly
We believe that Government should provide support
in two ways:
1. Providing funding to allow HEIs to rebate
and reduce fees for science, engineering and technology courses.
2. Supporting this with a public statement
about the value of such sectors to the UK economy, and their contribution
to its future prosperity. This will raise their profile with prospective
students, and improve their understanding of the potential rewards
of a career in this area.