University postgraduate system 'failing UK economy'

 
Laboratory The report says the UK's economy needs more home-grown postgraduate researchers

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The postgraduate system in the UK's universities is failing to produce the number of highly skilled staff needed by a modern economy, a report warns.

The Higher Education Commission says the system is geared towards attracting overseas students, rather than training more UK students.

The report warns that the UK is falling behind in investing in research.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokeswoman said: "We recognise there are some concerns."

The study from the Higher Education Commission calls for urgent reform of the postgraduate sector, saying that in its present state it will cause long-term problems for the UK's economy.

Postgraduate research has become increasingly important for innovative, hi-tech industries.

Tuition fees

But the Higher Education Commission, an independent group of education and business leaders, warns that the UK's current system seems to neglect UK students and instead is driven by universities wanting to recruit overseas students who pay high levels of tuition fees.

It says this risks making the UK the "education outsourcing capital of the world" - training international students rather than providing home-grown talent for UK firms.

Start Quote

The postgraduate sector needs to be brought in from the cold”

End Quote Graham Spittle Higher Education Commission and IBM chief technology officer

Without an expansion of UK postgraduate students, it will mean UK firms will have to recruit more staff from overseas - or even have to re-locate to countries with a higher skilled workforce, the report says.

"We can't compete with countries like China and India on numbers, but we can compete, and win, on ideas and innovation. The postgraduate sector needs to be brought in from the cold and hardwired into the UK's strategy for economic growth," said Graham Spittle, IBM's chief technology officer, who chaired the group preparing the report.

The report identifies the scale of the growth of overseas postgraduate students - up 200% since 1999 - compared with a rise of 18% for UK students.

Within the group of countries in the wider European education area, it says that apart from England and Wales, the only other countries to have so few home students staying on for postgraduate are Andorra and Kazakhstan.

It calls for a reform of the support available for postgraduate students - so that they will not be deterred by higher tuition fees or difficulties in getting loans.

Earlier this year a report from the 1994 Group of research intensive universities warned of a looming crisis in postgraduate education - with a warning that successive governments had failed to address the problems facing this sector.

The vice chancellor of Oxford University has also highlighted his concerns about the funding of postgraduate studies.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokeswoman said: "We have asked the Higher Education Funding Council for England to monitor and review participation in postgraduate study as part of a longer-term assessment of the impact of the funding changes."

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 220.

    OH has a PhD in science. He then had short term contracts as a postdoc, and was treated appallingly. He was too expensive to continue - he solved problems that had existed for decades-his achievements were never credited.
    Universities are there to make money and kudos for people at the top. It's not a career I'd recommend for anyone who would like to keep their health or have a "normal" life.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 219.

    159. JPublic
    For those research jobs that are out there...these jobs are on the whole, very poorly paid and often on par in terms of pay as an Admin worker.

    Yes, I agree that first post-doc jobs are often c.30k, and there are plenty of support staff at Universities earning the same, but that is 10k above the national average and admin staff are also important in delivering teaching and research.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 218.

    The only way a university differs from any other business is in the way it pays its vital staff. In most businesses when things are booming and they have twice as many customers paying three times as much as before for their "products", the staff get paid more. In UK universities the staff are classed as public sector workers and have their pay frozen. What a surprise, they are leaving in droves!

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 217.

    These qualifications mean little.

    I've had arguments with friends who hold degrees in maths from good universities about such trivial subjects, like gambling probabilities and odds, they being completely wrong.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 216.

    As number of British students in universities are very low since last several years.

    I think government needs to find out those factors which were stopping British people to go for Post Graduate studies before fees were low.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 215.

    As a professor in a top UK university science department I spend a very large proportion of my time seeking funding for postgraduate students' maintenance, fees and laboratory expenses. The simple fact is that science research and science research education is expensive and unless it is paid for it doesn't occur. If, as a nation, we want British postgraduate students, we have to fund them.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 214.

    Current cuts to education, increased university fees etc. are all leading to the UK sliding further behind the rest. Our education system favours a priviledged minority in stead of drawing on the talent of the whole country.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 213.

    My Masters landed me a job in the 70s. Following advice from the previous govt, my son has a Masters in Genetics and is actively chasing another job once this contract finishes. At one interview, he was told 170 people had applied for the post. He has invested in research, but the country is failing him. Where are the jobs in his field? Does he need to move to China or Singapore? Wake up UK !

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 212.

    I'm finishing my PhD in chemistry at a top UK uni and most people (~80%) finishing now are becoming teachers/accountants. To stay in research I have to spend ~5 years doing temporary, unsecure, fairly low paid post-docs to then have a tiny chance of getting a still not permanent job at the end. No other career path spends so long training for no reward and it is no wonder so many people give up.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 211.

    PG education & funding in the UK has been in crisis for some time, & the latest rushed increase to UG fees is only going to exacerbate the problem down the line, though no-one seems to have addressed this. But PG education isn’t just about training skilled staff for the workforce, it also contributes hugely to the intellectual life of a country, & PG arts funding is in an even worse state

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 210.

    My Aspirations once were to get a PHD... Upon gaining the high grades needed to enroll onto a half decent course I found myself watching lecturers standing in hoodies and reading off of a screen. Maybe I was just unlucky. However I decided I was better off teaching myself and left. For £3300 a term - less living expenses - it was not worth it. I couldn't have tolerated that for seven years.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 209.

    University departments are evaluated by the Research Assessment Exercise (see Wikipedia entry), which depends on research papers published in a competitive global arena. The outcome influences funding. Research quality and output is substantially influenced by the dedication and intellectual input of PhD students. Is it surprising the very best students are sought worldwide?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 208.

    This article misses out one important word or rather acronym - STEM. There aren't enough UK STEM postgrads, there are plenty of humanities/social science postgrads and PhDs who are busy working as baristas, if they can find any work at all....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 207.

    I just did a postgraduate degree in a science and I was one of about 5 UK students. The other 120 or so were from abroad. Mostly India, China and Greece, and a few from other European universities.

    There was no funding available and no student loans allowed for postgraduates so I struggled through with barely enough money to feed myself and am now in debt due to tuition fees.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 206.

    This is as usual is nonsense. PG education is available to anyone in the UK with the means to undertake this. I am a mature PhD student (I pay my own fees). However, colleges should think about a innovative business model to attract more UK fee paying candidates and make it more attractive for employers to use this as a means of securing their future managers, market expertise and knowledge base.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 205.

    Postgraduate qualifications do not mean that someone is more skilled or intelligent than someone with just a basic degree; they just mean that someone has elected to spend more time in a university setting than in a commercial/industrial workplace.

    In most of the commercial/industrial world (with notable exceptions such as medicine), PHDs are effectively worthless.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 204.

    Europe is discussing forcing employers to put 40% women in the boardroom. I mention the British Uni system doing the same with Foreign students and my post gets removed. No wonder Savile got away with it for so long, the BBC doesn't like anyone singing from a different song sheet. I'll give this post 5min max before the commissar takes it down.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 203.

    How does this compare with the amount of people who actually apply for these courses? The universities can only accept applications from those who complete them!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 202.

    Even if you get a post grad qual there are few jobs in the Unis for post docs, part of this is due to the Unis charging research councils excessive charges as part of 'full economic costings'. Basically, a majority of universities charge the research councils the salary of the researcher and then the same or more again for office space, heating, 'estates', it's a disgrace

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 201.

    Quite a few people here have already completed postgraduate degrees and can't seem to understand what all the fuss is about. That's just it, you've completed your postgraduate degrees. Someone like me, who in the current financial climate has little hope of getting to the interview, let alone paying the fees.

 

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