« Darling may be about to set second supertax trap for Tories | Main | More than a quarter of the original A-List are no longer seeking a parliamentary seat »

Comments

Great idea.

But it is missing the most important element; the element which has the REAL capacity to generate "black swan" boosts to our economy.

Masters courses are sadly devalued. We need to fund more PhD and post-doctoral research places for scientists. That is where creativity tends to shine.

That is where Yahoo, Google, etc. were born. That is where the next biotech and nanotech companies will come from.

I must be missing something. This spending will be financed by spending restraint? So we will be cutting back, not to close the £175bn public-finance black-hole, but to spend the money on Tory winners rather than Labour winners. Because the difference between Conservative and Labour is that their crystal ball works so much better. Call me apathetic, but I can feel my desire to vote at the next election evaporating again.

Given a weak pound, if we had a low-tax economy and removal of the many disincentives and complications created by government, you would expect British manufacturing and innovation to improve, and with it demand for engineers, and with it improved wages, and with it greater enthusiasm for STEM qualifications. Without these changes, you will be trying to encourage innovation through supply push (of graduates) without demand pull (from industry). A classic case of cart before horse.

I graduated in the summer of 2008 with a masters degree in engineering. I have subsequently been training as an accountant. I left the profession after applying for a loan I was told I would be regarded as "semi-skilled". I had a master degree and was in the same category as manual laborers!

Too many people call themselves engineers with no right to. We must make engineer a protected term, with the same protection as other professions.

The country of Brunel, Stephenson, Watt and Whittle must not forget their legacy and start respecting engineers again.

Not alot of use if there are no companies for these geniuses to get jobs with!

We need to encourage private enterprise first!

Of course these opportunities for "potentially unemployed young graduates" will have to be open on an equal basis to all across the EU.

I'm well and truly flabergasted.

Not a penny of the money Osborne and Cameron are saving by slowing spending growth is going to debt reduction?

All is going to extra spending or tax cuts.

Have I got this right?

It's been a serious weakness of the UK for nigh on a century; engineers, designers etc are simply not valued enough. If you look at German companies, for example, very often senior management will be engineers and the like, whereas the UK drew its managerial class from arts graduates, believing a degree involving Latin was much more important, seeing practical skills as somehow the realm of a lower class. (I exaggerate for effect)

If the Tories can really get a sea change, it will be worth twice this to the economy.

We need research companies to come to the UK, they need vastly improved facilities, infrastructure and funding. The teaching quality of fundamentals in Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics needs to be improved across the board as frankly the quality of what is taught is inferior outside the private school sector. Promote further co-operation and integration between companies and universities.

There is no point in more Masters Courses if you can't get the students to fill them, many existing UG and PG science and engineering courses struggle to fill up.

Increase again the funding to institutions that have high quality research departments in the Sciences and Engineering fields. Make the environment easier for big ticket projects to be based here, we need to be able to be competitive with France in this respect, they have the LHC(Large Hadron Collider) and the ITER (fusion reactor research)

As has been said, no point if the jobs aren't here. I have many peers with valuable skills who in their 20s who graduated and found prospects in the UK poor, many are now in the US.

If more 'real' courses are needed, axe the rubbish ones.

By the way, which parts of the private sector are calling for these people?

Or have lots of people applying for such courses been turned away?

I certainly agree we need to emulate the continent and value our engineers and technologists/scientists more highly as we witness a shrinking down of the service sector, particularly financial services, when elected to government. In fact one problem is that in Britain the man who fixes the lift enjoys the same title of engineer as a "chartered engineer" with a higher degree whereas in France and Germany the title "engineer" is restricted to the graduate profession and enjoys similar status to Dr etc
In my generation of Oxbridge graduates too many of my contemporaries with maths and engineering degrees went into the City to work on derivatives and other zero sum game leveraged strategies. Therefore its a healthy change to see rocket scientists apply their brillaint minds to actually designing rockets again rather than Credit Default Swaps and other exotic financial instruments which very nearly caused a global crash! I think Britain will ultimately benefit economically too by reinvigorating its industrial sector with such fresh talent.

All those welcoming the spending are ignoring the key point: THERE IS NO MONEY LEFT!!! Can someone please tell me if any of the spending restraint is going to debt reduction?

At the moment a large proportion of money we put up for master's gets taken by EU students. Now in theory we can take grants, and get masters in Europe, but they are less valuable. Only ~60% of this would actually benefit England...

There will always be more from the rest of the EU coming here to be funded for degrees and the rest by the UK taxpayer than the other way round. Major obvious reason is the English language.

While it's a great idea, it should be a great idea *for the future*. After we don't have this monster debt hanging over our heads, our children's head, and our children's children's head, like the reaper's scythe.

Five Billion? It's a stupid amount anyway. A drop in the ocean compared to what we need to save to have a chance of genuine recovery.

What?

Nice idea but the real economy is on its knees, and Osborne is suggesting even higher taxes on those who are contributing to the enonomy *NOW*.

Who is going to pay the 600m? I thought the cupboard was bare? Osborne has said it enough times.

This is lunacy. There is a massive debt to pay down with the savings. Has Osborne lost all sense of reality?

In the past, university education was paid for by previous generations.

Like so much else, Brown has sucked out the money, spend the 'pot' and left students paying for their own education.

To reverse these situations (switch back to saving to spend, instead of borrowing to spend) will be fantastically expensive, to no apparent benefit - do the tories plan to do this?

As a small business, my company now has to pay tax annually *in advance* - i.e. guess what I will earn for the year and pay the tax upfront (even before a single penny has been earned or paid to me) - this just isn't fair.

Strategic thinking is needed, not just tactical...

£600 million is a paltry sum and can easily be afforded if economies are made elsewhere, but it is only the beginning. The entire tax base needs to be oriented towards manufacturing and industry and away from the service sector.

>>As a small business, my company now has to pay tax annually *in advance* - i.e. guess what I will earn for the year and pay the tax upfront (even before a single penny has been earned or paid to me) - this just isn't fair.<<

Maybe you could explain that? I pay my tax based on profits at the end of the year, same as always.

Pink Tory said: "All those welcoming the spending are ignoring the key point: THERE IS NO MONEY LEFT!!! Can someone please tell me if any of the spending restraint is going to debt reduction?"

Oh yes there is. Scrap ID cards and you could fund 10 to 40 years worth of this scheme depending on whose cost estimates you believe. Scrap the email database and you will get another 20 years worth.

There is plenty of money. Just scrap the loony schemes dreamt up by Gordon in his fantasy of uptopian Britain.

Can we have elitism back please?

We need people to excel, to be good at things and to reward those who are best. Can we return to the thought that failing exams is NOT a bad thing?

The socialist idea that a nation of average achievers will produce the same amount of breakthroughs as having a few geniuses does not work. We know it does not work. Talk to anyone unde rthe age of 25 about science and engineering and see what dumbing down produces.

Make exams hard again, make courses challenging and make the marking schemes actually reflect the ability of the candidates.

"There is plenty of money. Just scrap the loony schemes dreamt up by Gordon in his fantasy of uptopian Britain.

Hawkeye,
You are missing the,um, little issue of the debt that needs paying down.

Yes, we know savings can be made, but they need to be used to reduce the debt.

This kind of scheme is equivalent to a person putting some money in a savings account instead of paying down their credit cards.

If they want to promote science and engineering they would do well in not just throwing money at the problem, but re-nationalizing key government laboratories. Giving the youngsters of tomorrow at least some British inspiration.

Few people realise that the Microwave was first thought of at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment. With this in mind they would do well in nationalizing these, again:

# Atomic Energy Research Establishment
# National Engineering Laboratory
# Laboratory of the Government Chemist

1. Royal Aircraft Establishment
2. Admirality Research Establishment
3. Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment
4. Royal Signals and Radar Establishment
5. Defence and Test Evaluation Organisation
6. Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment
7. Centre for Defence Analysis

There cannot be any other nation out there, but Britain, who sells of its national laboratories to make a profit. There are, believe it or not, other national leaders out there who are (were) more mentally incapacitated than Blair and Brown - (though the first three in my list were sold by Thatcher and she trained as a chemist).

"Scrap ID cards and you could fund 10 to 40 years worth of this scheme depending on whose cost estimates you believe. Scrap the email database and you will get another 20 years worth."

No you couldn't. You could no more do that than say 'I won't go on holiday this year, instead I'll buy myself a bentley' when the bailiffs are at the door.

The money has gone, the budget deficit is impossible to calculate because of continuously plummeting tax revenues. The budget deficit exists now, not when ID cards are to be introduced, not when trident is to be replaced and not when school leaving age is to rise. These things need to go immediatly, there is no money to fund them.

The budget needs to be cut, not raised but with differen't priorities.

State funding of higher education has to go. Most degrees are not worth the papaer they are written on and most universities seem to exist for the sole purpose of keeping people of working age economically innactive. Universities should fund themselves, as they do everywhere else in the world, and students should be given scholarships if they take courses that would actually be useful to the country.

Engineering should be in and sociology should be out.

PS

I had to take my Science GCSEs outside of school in my own time because the only thing that was offered was one pathetic combined science GCSE rather than seperate Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, which is what I wanted, so the problem is endemic in the entire system and not just at degree level.

Two Points:

Look at the countries losing most GDP growth in this recession. Are they

a) The organically developed, diversified Anglo-Saxon 'service' economies

or

b) The monolithic Japanese, Korean, German, Chinese Manufacturing Intensive economies?

Secondly:

I'm an engineer. It would be ridiculous to 'protect' the title of 'engineer'. Where would you draw the line? M.Eng degrees? B.Eng degrees? on experience alone? On Achievement? On how good you are at penetrating the old boys network?

Often, those clamouring most for protected titles for engineers are those at the bottom of the profession, stuck Dilbert-like in a cubicle after 20 years of hard work and no achievement.

The Engineers who rise to a higher position tend to get embarrassed by this, as they see the problem is infinitely more subtle than status alone.

For starters, would anyone like to suggest a reason why, as the clamour for more and more engineers increases year on year, the average wage continues to fall?!

Could it possibly be that actually there isn't a shortage in the areas that can simply be offshored, and that productivity has risen in a few key, high value areas. Therefore, perhaps people sensibly shun the subject because they rationally choose higher wages in other disciplines...

I agree, for once, with David Willetts and George Osborne and also with almost everything written here.

However, Thomas@23.00 raises a vital point often missed by our ruling elites. If we don't sort out our state education system we will not produce many engineers and scientists for the future. To even enter a first degree course in serious science or engineering, a student must first have achieved A level Mathematics and Physics (or the equivalent) and these subjects are now minority interests. Even at GCSE, these subjects seem to be beyond the ability of all but a few teachers in New Labour's dumbed down education system. This issue just HAS to be addressed.

There would have been plenty of engineers through apprenticeships if the Tories had not decimated engineering and industry the last time they were in power.

I cannot agree that professional engineers are now badly paid (I am an engineer too). We used to be poorly paid 30 or 40 years ago but not now. Doctors too are well paid but, for some reason, the profession is often shunned by those of indigenous British origin.

Why are the British (who stated the Industrial Revolution and led the development of much of modern medicine no) so reluctant to participate in these professions? I suggest the answer lies in our system of education and in the attitude of too many British people towards "real" education in mathematics and the sciences. How often have we hear some high up personage exclaim “Of course I don’t understand these technical things” or” I was never much good at Mathematics at school”? People who don’t have a basic understanding of the forces behind our civilisation should not have been allowed to progress much beyond the level that stacks selves or flips burgers.

DWL: Passing your MBBS allows you to be called Doctor. So why not Engineer with an M.Eng?

Peter: No, its because the EU does 2 year masters and the UK does 1 year! That's why so many masters students are not locals. But tellingly they all did their first degree back home.

Hawkeye: absolutely agree, except your "dumbing down" is not as bad as you think. If young people want to learn, they will learn even if the schools and universities don't provide. Anyway it seems that anyone who wants a real, difficult degree is still able to get one. We just have lots of people who wouldn't otherwise bother, stay in education when there are better things they could be doing.

Thomas: Why didn't you just do the combined science GCSE and a soft subject, and then take 3 science A-levels? And "differen't"???

Toryblog - I am well aware of the debt that need paid down, but in comparison to the debt these amounts are peanuts. This is a rare instance where you can have your cake and eat it.

Thomas - the entire cost of the ID and Email card system has not yet been paid over to the suppliers, but the money will be reserved via the normal commitment accounting practices so that it can be spent when needed. The money is there, let us not waste it on loony schemes.

BTW Thomas - I agree with you about "combined science" courses. They are a travesty.

David_at_Home: it's quite simple why "the[se] profession[s] [are] often shunned by those of indigenous British origin"

Because foreigners tend to have a big work ethic. Despite what some people seem to think, immigrants often work hard and the parents make their children value education and studying. By definition many "old" immigrants will be smart since otherwise they would still be living in a slum in India or something. Foreign students are mostly smart or else they would not have been able to make it here. Whereas the whole white population, geniuses or retards, is represented.
That said, there are still a lot of "asylum" seekers who are just benefit scrounging scum, though not all.

Britain became powerful through the Industrial Revolution.

There is a wide field of engineering problems that cry out for imaginative solutions. Although our our intellectual base has been degraded by the current Government, and to some extent our pre-occupation with the "arts" taking precedence over sciences, we have the talent and industry to become pre-eminent and recover our postion in the world.

I fully support the initiative to expand education in the "hard sciences" that will improve the standard of living of the UK and the World.

Modern engineering is the application of intellectual skills to outstanding problems that are based in Physics and investment in these skills have great potential for the future. We have been marginalised by poor education and the view that social sciences are more relevent to today's problems. Nevertheless the challenges of energy, transport, health, defence and communications are critical areas of Government that depend on innovative engineering and science, which we must promote.

Regretably, we live in a technophobic culture. Before I am accused of oerpetuating the "scientific power dream", I would urge you to reflect on the current Government's initiative on "Green Energy". While it is hugely exciting, it is in a world of its own as it rejects scientific and engineering reality. Windmills, Electric Cars ...

We will arise to the modern challenges of energy, health and transport by rigorous engineering analysis and technical skill.

I applaud any initiatives to strengthen our engineering and scientific base.

RCS [PdD Eng]

@ above: If you want to be called Dr. and are an engineer, there is a perfectly good route.

Do a PhD.


Dave at Home - it has been suggested that good british doctors can earn more abroad, rather the become slaves to the NHS, hence the government needing immigrants to maintain the NHS.

Which sounds plausible -- but I don't have any figures.

Generally - does anyone really have any respect for 'titles'? I certainly don't - any non medical person calling themselves 'doctor' is very dubious in my view.

If someone needs a title to give them status, then to me it suggest they have done nothing worthwhile since leaving full time education...

"There would have been plenty of engineers through apprenticeships if the Tories had not decimated engineering and industry the last time they were in power."

Industrial production was 15% higher in 1997 than it was in 1979.

It is now 15% lower than it was in 1997.

Labour governments always destroy wealth creation.

Future engineers need individual mathematics and physics tuition. One on one lessons. Regardless of A, B, C, D, E, or F grades we just need people who can do trigonometry, calculus, algebra, etc. It's not the letter of the alphabet that matters, but the actual real life ability of the student.

How to pay for it? Cut the money that Microsoft has been sucking out of schools with their expensive operating system software licenses. Open source operating systems cost nothing. Linux, unix, or whatever. Labour were proud of spending on schools, but there were companies there with big smiles on their faces as they pigged out on taxpayers' cash for silly money I.T. contracts. If that money had paid for one on one tuition...

The BBC must change. It's absolutely ridiculous that huge amounts of money are spent on the fantasy worlds of Eastenders and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, while a lot of what has to do with real life or providing good role models is ignored.

BBC3 is a cynical way of keeping the youth happy to pay the license fee. Selfish motives are bad for Britain. Scrap it. Make science and engineering channels. How many researchers, scientists, and engineers out there would love to tell the world what they do. They would love to pass their knowledge on to future generations.

You can't just spend money. Young people need good role models to look up to and emulate, and hey, they don't cost anything! A good role model is free.

Hawkeye,
Osborne can't simultaneously say he can't detail policies because he does not know the exact size of the black hole (as repeated on Andrew Marr) *and* propose new spending plans based on current figures and potential savings.

Well he can, and he is, but it makes no sense. If he knows enough to propose and cost new spending plans, then clearly his "wait until I see the books to see how bad thing are" approach is dishonest.

ToryBlog said: "Osborne can't simultaneously say he can't detail policies because he does not know the exact size of the black hole (as repeated on Andrew Marr) *and* propose new spending plans based on current figures and potential savings."

I understand what you say, but this particular scheme is peanuts in terms of UK budgeting. This has the great advantages that it will resonate well with the public and in national terms it will cost little to administer.

R4 is talking about Darling having to shave £15bn from spending in his budget and that is while keeping the Orwellian schemes.

Stop - in fact reverse - the closure of science (especially chemistry) departments at universities would be a good start. Try to cut down on the less intellectually rigourous but popular courses for which there are few jobs - forensic science comes to mind, whilst increasing atractiveness (through bursaries?) of the more demanding physical sciences together with the key subject of molecular biology/biochemistry.

Just a starter

Once again they`ve got the priorities wrong. Instead of talking about how they are going to spend money they should be working on how to cut back on spending and abolishing the hundreds (possibly thousands) of unnecessary laws we are now subject to.

Conservativehome at its best on this thread. My own albeit simplistic view is that this is a very good idea but money for this scheme must be found from within existing education budgets and not as an addition.Given the size of the education budget this should be far from impossible.

Fair point Hawkeye!

"whereas the UK drew its managerial class from arts graduates, believing a degree involving Latin was much more important"

A hang over from the days when only the better sort got degrees. Not that Latin is without its use, maybe we should be looking to reintroduce it to the state schools. It annoys me no end when Politicians use Latin (sorry Boris it just so rude, you speak it far to quickly).So irritating is the lack of Latin that I have been forced to do a little reading myself and I am now one of the true dogs of the language. Rather than Latin being picked up A bene placito it would be far better to insist on a least some Latin for all GCSE students. After all scratch the surface of English and its Latin underbelly is exposed. Even more so in the scientific fields of endeavour. Becuse as everyone knows "Avarus animus nullo satiatur lucro"

Firstly we need to redress the dilution of qualifications. In my profession I find far too many people who cannot construct an argument, research information independently or indeed do basic math without the aid of a computer of some description

Education has for years been used as a method of reducing the unemployment lines, which itself is a result of successive governments treating business as a cashpoint to ever more squeeze without the understanding that making the country so uncompetitive to enterprise drives enterprise elsewhere.

Get rid of business rates, reform "elf n safety" get rid of the false "training" culture that delivers fake qualifications as fig leaves for defensive insurance, refocus GCSE/ A/ HND/ Degree's as gateways to more esoteric and specialist qualification.

We might attract business then, and engineers might find themseleves qualified to work

One further point: persuade more scientists and engineers to go into politics enable them to fight their corner more succesfully

"One further point: persuade more scientists and engineers to go into politics enable them to fight their corner more succesfully "

Most of these people a doers rather than talkers. Even so the old joke about the car park with the really nice cars belonging to the accountants, and the administrators having not quite so nice cars, but the punch line being the engineers only having push bikes is still often true.

"Get rid of business rates, reform "elf n safety" get rid of the false "training" culture that delivers fake qualifications as fig leaves for defensive insurance, refocus GCSE/ A/ HND/ Degree's as gateways to more esoteric and specialist qualification."

Get City and Guilds involved in the training of children pre-16. They are the experts in practical training for the trades. I have never regretted following any city and guilds course I have sat (and I have done a few) whilst many other providers are not half as focused and doing a practical job. The great thing about City and Guilds is that they start right at the most basic level and then build up to degree standard and beyond. A great choice for those who want a hands on Job.

The training of the new generation of scientists and engineers begins at school. The best and brightest pupils must be nurtured and encouraged so that they get into university with flying speed. I was lucky because I was exposed to an exceptional mathematician at school who taught brilliantly and took us into advanced areas for the fun of it (I only discovered from his obituary that he had been immediately recruited by Bletchly Park on gaining his degree).

We desperately need maths and science teachers who can fire up A level students. They should be encouraged with extra pay. Also, I think that the A levels have become less demanding in the last 40 years and that we should address that.

" Also, I think that the A levels have become less demanding in the last 40 years and that we should address that."

I didn't believe how dumbed down our exams had become until quite recently. My son is sitting 10 GCSE's, but the courses themselves would have looked rather easy to CSE students. There seems to be a drive to get the children to do a lot of examinations rather than doing very well in a core of select subjects. The idea that a child with a majority of C's and 2 B's should do 4 AS levals seems to be a recipe for either disastor or a very trimmed down set of examinations. Indeed children with mostly A's and A* are encouraged to do 5 AS levels. To my way of thinking 5 or 6 GCSE's followed by 3 A levels makes far better sense. Are kids are working very hard but are not getting as deeply into the subjects as they used to. This heavy load of exams isn't a good idea as the children are not learning as much as they used too. I would encourage a cutting down of the numbers of subjects in favour of higher standards in fewer disciplines from 14-18.

A lot needs to be done to resurrect our science and engineering capacity after the years of sabotage.

It is do-able though and the results could be quite quick.
One thing is to recognise the value of such couses with higher grants- paid for by abolishing some of the candy floss courses of no value.

I have considerable experience of working with people in career development/transition situations. Whilst I welcome this initiative there are other - and very fundamental - problems including:-

1. Young people have to make decisions that affect their careers at far too young an age. Choices that can subsequently affect their choices of courses at university and then their career options have to made when deciding which GCSEs to take. At the age they do not understand enough about themselves and the world of work to make decisions that may limit them a few years later.

2. Courses that should be offered at Colleges of FE, eg graphic design, media studies, have become university courses. In the process both the Colleges of FE and the university courses seem to have been devalued.

3. The career advice many young people seem to receive leaves a great deal to be desired.

4. Employers pay lip-service to the need for such things as engineering skills and languages but do not seem to want to pay for them.

5. There is a great deal of rhetoric from HR professionals about talent management but many of them would not recognise talent if it hit them in the face.

6. HR professionalso also preach flexibility - and have been doing so for at least the past 16 years - but many of the systems/procedures they use weed out flexibility.

7. As a result of that it is not easy - and often very difficult - for people to change careers rather than just change jobs. As the world of work is changing so rapidly we need to recognise - and reward - adaptability.

8. Recruitment process and particularly the Equal Opportunities procedures attached to them, specifically in the public sector, too often rule out the flexibility and adaptability we need to cope in a competitive world.

I could go on - as you may realise this is one of my pet topics - but I don't want to bore you. However, there are some very real, and serious issues, here. If we are to get this country back on its feet the Conservatives need to be addressing them.

Good post Dorothy and it raises some good points. I have no experience of "career development" but I run a small business and interview people occasionally for both ourselves and other small businesses. As such I would like to rely to some of your points.

1. Young people have to make decisions that affect their careers at far too young an age.

They should be deciding the general area that interests them and aiming for that. I have one child who is never going to be a scientist or engineer, but humanities subject interest her a great deal.


2. Courses that should be offered at Colleges of FE, eg graphic design, media studies, have become university courses. In the process both the Colleges of FE and the university courses seem to have been devalued.

Agreed. The courses are very superficial and graduates I have interviewed barely know the basics.


3. The career advice many young people seem to receive leaves a great deal to be desired.

Agreed. How can teachers give career advice on anything other than teaching?


4. Employers pay lip-service to the need for such things as engineering skills and languages but do not seem to want to pay for them.

Yes and no. Some of us already have to retrain graduates to do things that graduates are supposed to know how to do. That costs money. There are, of course, bad employers who want super skills and to pay peanuts.


5. (& 6) There is a great deal of rhetoric from HR professionals
*Cough* *Cough* - HR professionals?


7. we need to recognise - and reward - adaptability.

Adaptability is the flip-side of specialism. We need specialists more than generalists.


8. Recruitment process ... rule out the flexibility and adaptability we need to cope in a competitive world.

That is because everyone is terrified of being sued. There was a shop owner who advertised a job involving heavy lifting and a pregnant girl applied. He told her that the job would cause her to miscarry and he would not consider her. She sued him and won. If he had given her the job (and she miscarried) she would have sued him again. What was he supposed to do? He was basically doomed the minute she walked into his shop. His only option was to take her on and then lay her off and make her sit at home on full pay until she got SMP and then ask her back after the maternity period. He could have had her on his books doing no work at all for 18 months and costing him money.

Employee protection has gone too far.

Hawkeye:
"Adaptability is the flip-side of specialism. We need specialists more than generalists."

Not quite. A single specialism is not likely to sustain an individual throughout their career. Ask any British nuclear engineer or analog wireless telephone network designer.

Dorothy Wilson is spot on. Money can be made available to spend on Science and Engineering if we downgrade all the mickey mouse degree courses and revert the so called universities that offer them to Polytechnics or schools of further education.

In my view this would also reduce the number of bogus student visas.

It is also true that a large number of companies now recruit in France to fill the engineering vacancies - partly due to lack of local graduate engineers and partly due to people with good degrees going straight to the City. We also outsource a lot of the design tasks to companies in India.

Every other school leaver must have a degree is a truly idiotic idea and unfortunately our front bench still thinks that we should continue with this madness.

I agree that generalism is essential for high flying engineers. My subject, biomedical engineering, requires a knowledge of biology and medicine (obviously), instrumentation, computing and numerical analysis, fluid mechanics, materials, etc.

A good degree course is the passport to aquiring these skills. While we have to teach specialist subjects to engineering students, some of whom will never stray beyond a narrow specialism, many will evolve into "general specialists" with a wide range of applicable knowledge and an understanding of how engineering impacts on society. This depends on a proper foundation in engineering sciences and mathematics followed by experience.

Engineers are no more or less politicians than soldiers, doctors or any other specialist group. Their political value is to give sound advice to politicians on engineering issues and influence policy.( The advice that has been given to the EU over energy seems to have gone badly wrong and we have have been saddled with some pretty odd policies. Fortunatey professional engineers can explain to politicians the implications of these policies on society)

Mark Williams said: "Not quite. A single specialism is not likely to sustain an individual throughout their career."

I know what you mean, but those coming through in specialised areas are not specialised enough. Many that I encounter lack the solid foundations needed. They require retraining in basics that they should already know - mathematical competence for a start.

Do you think someone should tell the leadership that STEM graduates don't generally do Master's degrees? They more likely to go straight on to a doctorate if they're any good - particularly given the growth of 4-year undergraduate Master's degrees.

We'd also be lucky to find 25,000 British graduates of sufficient calibre - try asking some university postgraduate admissions tutors.

Surely David Willets knows all this?

Specialisation v. generalisation

We need to try to get a balance between the two, which admittedly is not easy.

However, if a person's career is too specialised there is a danger of depth without breadth and also that the world will move on whilst leaving him/her behind. If someone is too generalist the danger is that s/he will have breadth without depth and a lack of focus.

Similar comments could probably be made about businesses. If they are too specialised their vision can become too narrow, they ignore business imperatives, and they get left behind or eaten by their competitors. If they are too generalist their skills and efforts become too widely spread or the management loses control [the banks!].

Returning to education, my view is inclining towards a IB style qualification at 16 that covers the basics of maths, English, science and - yes - history and geography. The fundamentals need to be in there too - you can't build a house without the foundations.

Post 16 the practical people - the Sensors in Jung's terms - can go off to Colleges of FE. As Ross Warren says, a return to an updated version of the City & Guilds type qualifications wouldn't go amiss. These people can always move on to university at a later date if that's what they want to do. The OU provides a good route.

The more academic, analytical and exploratory youngsters staying at school would still be following the generalist route with a more advanced diploma at 18.

Personally, I would go as far as considering making the first year at university more generalist with specialisation coming in the 2nd and 3rd years. Perhaps my views are coloured by the people I've had to rescue because they've taken highly specialised degrees [eg dentistry, law etc] at vast expense to the taxpayer and great effort to themselves only to find that, in their mid-20s, they hate the job they are qualified for.

However, this is obviously an extremely complex subject. What I hope is that the Conservatives will take a strategic view instead of the tinkering we've had with NuLabour. Above all, we should be aiming at a system that will enable each individual to reach their potential - whether that is to be high flyer academically, a good engineer or a reliable plumber - rather than the social engineering that underpins Brown's approach.

Unfortunately, there is likely to be a major battle with the teaching unions en route.

A low-cost/cost-free way of increasing the pool of scientists and engineers would be to make all scientific degree studies free of tuition fees and eligible for maintenance grants while at the same time lifting the cap on tuition fees for other subjects. Universities would be required to have at least x% (40%?) of their undergraduate places reserved for courses with sufficient rigorous scientific content to qualify. They would also be encouraged to institute 4 year BSc courses to enable those students who had chosen useless A levels to convert.

Dorothy Wilson said: "I've had to rescue because they've taken highly specialised degrees [eg dentistry, law etc] at vast expense to the taxpayer and great effort to themselves only to find that, in their mid-20s, they hate the job they are qualified for."

Indeed, but you probably only meet the "disaffected". There may be thousands of people in their mid-20s who love the job they qualified for. I guess it is the ratio of love / hate that indicates where the problems lie.


"Unfortunately, there is likely to be a major battle with the teaching unions en route. "

I have no problems with that. I am not convinced that the teaching unions' leadership want meaningful dialogue. A touch of the Arthur Scargills perhaps...

Hawkeye - that isn't quite the case. I would use under-utilised and under-valued rather than "disaffected". There is a big difference. Some of the points that do come out of my work are:-

* There are a good many people out here in the real world whose talents and abilities are wasted. Can we as a country afford such wastage?

* A good many businesses, including those who boast about their supposed state-of-the-art HR do not know how to recognise and develop talent.

* As a country we tend to value frippery rather than substance.

And I guess leading on from that latter point, the debate about the status of engineers has been going on since at least the 1980s. My understanding then was that the designation of Chartered Engineer was to be used to sort out the people with a professional qualification from those who were, in essence, technicians.

Now, I have some work to do for a client. Just under a year ago she was an undervalued stay at home housewife - and undervalued herself too. Now she is promoting training to small businesses on behalf of a local university and is going great guns. Good for her!

The comments to this entry are closed.

#####here####

Categories

ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:
      Name:
      Email:
      Subscribe    
      Unsubscribe 

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker