Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Annex A



  In 2005, the Royal Society responded to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology's inquiry into strategic subjects. This prompted the development of a pilot project, which explored the supply of and demand for graduates from first degree courses in science, technology and mathematics (STM). Work undertaken as part of the initial study has started to provide a better idea of the numbers of and skills, knowledge and experience of students joining the university system and has been reported in A degree of concern? UK first degrees in science, technology and mathematics. A number of issues identified in the report have resulted in the setup of this project to consider whether STM HE provision in the UK will be fit for purpose by the second half of the next decade and beyond.


  This phase of the project is considering whether the overall STM HE provision in the UK will be fit for purpose by the second half of the next decade. Considerations of whether UK STM HE is fit for purpose must include the needs of society and the economy for STM-trained individuals at all levels; the skills, knowledge, experience and intention of those entering the HE system; the international competitiveness of the UK HE system; and the political and economic context in which HE exists. Selected issues that have been identified for further investigation are:

    —  The demand for STM graduates from the economy and wider society, and how this demand is changing.

    —  The quantity of those graduating at all levels of the higher education system, and the quality, depth and breadth of their educational and training experiences.

    —  The length of time HE studies should take, and how that time should be broken down (with reference to the Bologna proposals to standardise the structure of HE across Europe).

    —  The current discipline boundaries and whether a general science first degree option could be appropriate.

    —  The changes to the skills, knowledge and experience of those entering the HE system and how the HE system can accommodate such changes.

    —  The need to allow students to be flexible in their choices of occupation as they gain their qualification and afterwards.

    —  The impact, on the UK, of international flows of students and STM professionals.

  The Society's HE working group issued a call for evidence on these issues in summer 2006. The group is now taking forward work in these areas and expects to report in autumn 2007.


  Professor Judith AK Howard CBE FRS, Head of Department of Chemistry, University of Durham (chair).

  Dr Kathy Barrett, Higher Education Careers Adviser, UCL Careers Service & Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Department of Anatomy & Developmental Biology, University College London.

  Professor Amanda Chetwynd, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Lancaster University.

  Professor Patrick Dowling CBE FREng FRS, Chair, Royal Society Education Committee.

  Professor Laurence Eaves CBE FRS, Professor of Physics, University of Nottingham.

  Professor Alexander Halliday FRS, Professor of Geochemistry, Oxford University.

  Professor Edgar Jenkins, Emeritus Professor of Science Education Policy, University of Leeds.

  Mr Geoff Mason, Senior Research Fellow, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

  Dr Andy T Merritt, Global Director of Outsourcing and Molecular Tools, GlaxoSmithKline R&D.

  Mr Philip Ruffles CBE FREng FRS, Former Director Engineering & Technology, Rolls Royce.

Professor John Spicer, Reader, Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, University of Plymouth.

  Professor Joan Stringer CBE, Principal & Vice Chancellor, Napier University.

  Professor John Wood FREng, Chief Executive, CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

December 2006

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