Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 65

Memorandum from the Nutrition Society

1.  The impact of HEFCE's research funding formulae, as applied to RAE ratings, on the financial viability of university science departments

Comments:

  This will tend to concentrate resources towards the best scoring research departments, which will impact on those departments with strong teaching but moderate research. For interdisciplinary subjects such as nutrition, there is an invidious choice of brigading themselves with "easier" groupings to get a higher score, or to risk going in "harder" groups. This conflict between the need to score, and the proper placing of subjects is undesirable.

2.  The desirability of increasing the concentration of research in a small number of university departments, and the consequences of such a trend

Comments:

  Undesirable. The opportunity to do high quality research in recognised institutions will fall to few students and this would present itself such that a two-tier system in Universities would exist. The standard of those institutions not undertaking research would undoubtedly fall. Concentrating research in a few top-rated departments will reduce the opportunities for career development for the many researchers who have geographical ties for family reasons. This will particularly affect women. It will also reduce the opportunity for career development for those who are not marked out as "high fliers" at an early stage in their careers but who can bring other skills and expertise to a research career.

3.  The implications for university science teaching of changes in the weightings given to science subjects in the teaching funding formula

Comments:

  Emphasis must be to award those teaching science a greater financial incentive.

4.  The optimal balance between teaching and research provision in universities, giving particular consideration to the desirability and financial viability of teaching-only science departments;

Comments:

  There must be encouragement for all Departments to keep up research and teaching. Teaching-only science departments will provide an inferior training for students—being able to carry out research under experienced staff is fundamental to the process of teaching science at undergraduate as well as postgraduate level. However individual members of such mixed departments might have predominantly research or teaching roles, depending on aptitude—good researchers are not necessarily good teachers, and vice versa.

  Teaching only science departments would need to receive Government funding to survive.

5.  The importance of maintaining a regional capacity in university science teaching and research

Comments:

  Absolutely critical or else there will be a class (by region) division and unequal access to science in Universities. That cannot be a good thing for UK education. We will fall even further behind in the science quality of our research and reputation. Retaining regional capacity is important for allowing students fromless privileged backgrounds access to high quality training and to supporting local links with industry.

6.  The extent to which the Government should intervene to ensure continuing provision of subjects of national or regional importance; and the mechanisms it should use for this purpose.

Comments:

  The Government should stop at nothing to ensure that science subjects are fully provided in all relevant institutions. Cost should not be a limiting factor since there will be such enormous financial implications to the Government (eg the effects of a shortage of graduates in science on UK business) if chemistry and other key science subjects are taken off the university agenda. The Government must start at the primary school level and undertake a five-year strategy campaign at raising the profile of science in schools, making use of existing science societies (eg physiological, biochemical, nutrition as well as the Royal Society of Chemistry and the British Association). Further emphasis and expansion should be given to the Nuffield Science Bursary Schemes. The GCSE and A level science curricula should also be reviewed and attempts made to allow the subjects to be more appealing to our younger population.

February 2005



 
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