Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 108

Supplementary evidence from Dr Gavin Reid[382]

  Many thanks for the opportunity to address the select committee this morning. There were one or two matters that I did not get the opportunity to raise given the time available and the manner in which the particular questions were put. Please do not take that as a criticism, your enquiry probably establishes a new record for the breadth of its remit!

If I may I would like to add that I am especially concerned about the polarisation of science teaching at 14-19 level away from the state sector and especially away from the FE colleges. This is evidenced by students' practical skills or the lack thereof at entry—it is quite common that students have only ever seen the teacher demonstrate many of the key experiments. This is a travesty in my view. Simply put, the economy needs more scientists than are being taught and trained at the present time.

  The other is about the impact of the fall in the unit of resource that Professor Arthur described. I was impressed with his somewhat candid statement as it is extremely unusual (unheard of?) for such views to be expressed in public by a sitting Vice-Chancellor. For sure it impacted adversely on the student:staff ratio but also unevenly. In the sciences, where student numbers did not expand at the same rate as other parts of the sector many departments, as you know, were closed or downsized. More detrimental, however, has been the closure of the science infrastructure within our universities as labs have been turned over for alternative usage. The cost of replacing these facilities when fashions change is vast and has never been taken in to account. I believe strongly that the Visitors, who usually have powers of inspection of the buildings and laboratory facilities in Pre 92 University Charters have failed in their duty here. I might be wrong but I do not believe that the Visitor has inspected a single University laboratory at any time in recent history. The old UGC space norms have been torn up without debate and those who helped to established the new norms are the same as those who implement space policy and they are certainly not academic…

May 2009

382   UCU, National Executive Member, following the oral evidence session on 6 May 2009. Back

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