Memorandum from the Physiological Society
The Physiological Society is one of the larger
member organisations of the Biosciences Federation, which has
already submitted a detailed response to the Commons Science and
Technology Committee Enquiry. The Biosciences Federation and Institute
of Biology represent a total of ~65,000 bioscientists interested
in maintaining excellence in research-led teaching in English
universities. The Physiological Society endorses the issues raised
in the response from the Biosciences Federation.
The major concerns in our discipline are related
to recruitment of talented and motivated A-level science students.
School children, who later take up university courses in Physiology
and related sciences, are usually enticed into a science curriculum
by the practical experiences they have conducting hands-on experiments.
We concur with the Biosciences Federation statement that students
need to be targeted to elect science options. However, we would
advise that students are targeted prior to selection of GCSE courses.
This requires placement of highly motivated and qualified science
teachers at an early stage in secondary education, and preferably
in primary schools. In this context, The Physiological Society
has undertaken to train young affiliate members (PhD, postdoc)
in Communication Skills so that they can visit both primary and
secondary schools to share their enthusiasm for science.
Universities need to advertise the benefits
for PhDs seeking a career in teaching science. This may necessitate
continued advertising by government and a clearer statement that
highly qualified science PhDs will be well rewarded financially
as teachers of science curricula.
As Physiology is an experimental discipline,
training in this field is best served by research-led universities.
We agree with the Biosciences Federation response that today's
physiology/biomedical students at university do not always receive
sufficient transferable laboratory skills. This is largely due
to the marked increase in student numbers without increased resourcing
from government. The inevitable outcome is that our science BSc
graduates are often not well-equipped for laboratory-based PhD
research, and often need to spend a 1 year placement in industry
or undertake MRes or MSc courses.