Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1 - 19)



  Q1  Chairman: Thank you for coming to help us at the start of this inquiry into universities. Some of us are too long in the tooth to remember what it is like to study at a university, so we are very grateful to you for finding the time to come away from your precious studies. I am sure you are missing important lectures or something, and you are going to be contributing hopefully to higher education in this country. Please do not treat this as viva; we are not awarding any degrees, we are trying to get to your feelings and any information that you have to reflect some of the issues, as you see them, so that we can maybe do something about them because we are not happy with everything that is going on. So, I do not know how you are going to answer all this, but I will keep you down to a few sentences so that we get through it all. Firstly, can you tell me what was your reason for studying science? Amy?

  Ms Huntington: Interest really; interest at school.

  Q2  Chairman: Ian?

  Mr Hutton: Just the same, interest at school; I have always been interested in biology.

  Q3  Chairman: Danielle?

  Ms Miles: Very much the same. Every career aspirations I had I wanted to do something sort of science based.

  Q4  Chairman: It was not the least of all the bad things you could have done, then? You could have done the arts or something. Stephen?

  Mr Rowley: It is more something I have fallen towards during my school career. With civil engineering it is nice to have a definite goal at the end.

  Q5  Chairman: So you enjoyed the subject at school, that is basically what you are saying. Were you interested in the career end of it, the great sums of money that would come your way? Was that part of your decision making?

  Mr Hutton: Not really.

  Q6  Chairman: Because you knew you were going to be poor and would never have to pay your loans back!

  Ms Miles: Mine was more to do with the fact of just finding it interesting and being able to answer questions and find out facts and new things all the time, and just being updated with things rather than the money side of it.

  Q7  Chairman: Let me get right into it. What is your assessment, when you look back at science teaching in the school you were at? Was there an inspirational teacher? What about the practicals that went on? Tell me something about your experience from your generation, please. Amy, could you say something about that? What did school did you go to?

  Ms Huntington: For my secondary school years I was actually home educated. I did my A Levels at a college. My physic teacher at college was fantastic, she was just brilliant, and obviously she was a woman, which helped at the time.

  Q8  Chairman: Which makes her brilliant than a man!

  Ms Huntington: Yes! Wow! a woman physics teacher. She was an inspiration.

  Q9  Chairman: In what way was she inspirational to you?

  Ms Huntington: She was just so enthusiastic about the subject and her teaching. You could not help but enjoy lessons.

  Q10  Chairman: Ian?

  Mr Hutton: I found more or less the same, but I found that when I was going through GCSEs and A Level, at each level as the subject progressed more areas of the subject opened up and you were taught more information, and as that kept going I kept on wanting to find out more at each stage, I guess. So it kind of progressed up, and also I had very enthusiastic teachers, both at GCSE and at A Level.

  Q11  Chairman: Danielle?

  Ms Miles: After GCSE it was fine; I got to A Levels and had a bit of a nightmare. My AS Levels, I was taught my chemistry by a biologist, and obviously she had some knowledge of it but I did not feel that she was that enthusiastic about it.

  Q12  Chairman: Which school were you at, Danielle?

  Ms Miles: The John Collet School, in Buckinghamshire. I got to my A2s and my chemistry teacher—I actually had a chemistry teacher—left six months towards the end of the course, so I then had to teach myself. Everyone else that was on the course gave up and I tried to stick it out and got information from other people that I knew, and things like that, and had to basically teach myself.

  Q13  Chairman: You were pretty determined to go ahead with it?

  Ms Miles: Yes. Stupidly! And now I am in this situation.

  Q14  Chairman: Stephen?

  Mr Rowley: Throughout school most of my teachers were good, up to GCSEs, which were really good. I think A Levels, it was more that was not really following it very well and I lost interest in it a bit.

  Q15  Chairman: What about the courses you did at school? Did they influence what university science course you went for? From your situation, Amy, I know it is slightly different, but from what you learnt, did that make you decide and make you look through before you filled in the UCAS forms and so on?

  Ms Huntington: It made me decide that I wanted to go into physics rather than any other science.

  Q16  Chairman: So you were pretty clear what you wanted to do?

  Ms Huntington: Yes.

  Q17  Chairman: How did you choose the university?

  Ms Huntington: I am not actually sure, to be fair.

  Q18  Chairman: How many interviews did you go for?

  Ms Huntington: Two.

  Q19  Chairman: And you got an offer at both?

  Ms Huntington: Yes, and I decided on Newcastle.

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