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
    0

    Comment number 260.

    As a self-funded part time PhD student, I find it laughable that I pay almost £300 per month to have a one-hour chat with my supervisor every 2 months. That is one brilliant hourly rate for the uni. Funding needs to be made available and the fees should reflect the service offered to students. No wonder there is such disillusionment out there!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 259.

    I recently went to an Open day at a North Wales Uni for engineering PG courses, and found that not only were the PG students showing me around of a foreign nationality but also the lecturers were of the same nationality. The communication in english was painfull but peripheral conversations were in their mother tongue - I think I would actually be disadvantaged to have English as a first language.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 258.

    Funding research students is the answer! The UK should also realize that encouraging her students for postgraduate studies must be done, it should use one stone to kill 2 birds, Encourage bright international students to stay back and contribute to the growth of the UK; canada is doing that and the US is about to, Stop looking for what you have! You cannot attract what you discard!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 257.

    As a university director of postgraduate studies, we would welcome more UK students. At those times when funding schemes are available, we have no shortage of applicants. If business and industry are crying out for UK postgrads, then they'll have to get their cheque books out. Incidentally, universities are non-profit organisations, so fees are used to retain staff needed to do the teaching.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 256.

    The UK Higher Education system offers no grants for students to do a masters degree.

    In theory banks should lend students money as "career development loans" in the UK. However the banks will NOT lend the students the £20,000 for a Masters course. So UK students are unable to secure the funds. We must extend the current 9K government loan system to include a 4th master’s degree year.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 255.

    The sad fact of the matter is that as a PhD student you get to do the bulk of the research work in your institution, but are paid just about the minimum wage. The PhD salary (don't call it a "studentship", a small and constantly declining amount of time is used for training) needs to be commensurate with the output.

    (The comments demonstrate that Joe Public has no idea what grad students do!)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 254.

    There are more high tech jobs out there than there have been for quite some time - but getting access can be hard and pay isnt great - and there is a lot of luck in finding an HR department that can handle more than a tick list of requirements

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 253.

    Paul Welsh writes that "As a post grad from a top four university i can say this is absolute rubbish. I have had no trouble getting my dream job at an investment fund."

    Well, that's exactly the problem the article highlights. Postgraduate researchers aren't going into the kinds of science and technology jobs needed to grow the economy. They're going into "soft roles" like management or banking.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 252.

    If a customer can pay more a business will charge more, sounds simple. So when Govt says Uni is a right & gives students Govt loans, the students artificially have more money than otherwise, meaning more students with more £s for education means Unis can & do charge more. Abolish Govt student loans. = To now attract students Unis would have to find cost efficiencies & savings.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 251.

    As a (now happily ex) long term University researcher there are a couple of things to say. Inside universities there isnt always the respect for PhD's and post docs that there could be. They are feudal organisations, and its just luck as to if you end up in a position where you can develop your own work or if you are just cheap labor to be exploited by those above you.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 250.

    @248. Graham
    I disagree on tuition fees. The Unis are gorging on the Govt's policy of giving students money they don't have via huge loans, funded by others, to pay more for a service from your Uni than they otherwise could have. If a customer can pay more the business will charge more. In this case the ability for students to pay more today is artificial, a very expensive loan.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 249.

    It's important to remember that there's a difference between PGT programmes (MSc etc) and PGR programmes. The report isn't clear which it's referring to.
    Some jobs require a PGT qualification, other programmes allow people to continue education in a specific area, eg journalism etc.
    PhDs etc are really only for those going into research or academia. There are serious issues with funding for both

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 248.

    As a professor at a leading UK unviersity, I object to the false dichotomy in this article. The fees paid by overseas students are subsidising the education of UK students. Overseas students are not taught in place of UK students, but alongside them; their fees help secure the continuing provision of world-class education for UK students in the face of year-on-year budget reductions.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 247.

    It's completely unjust to steal someone's income that has no desire to attend University so that someone else can go. By doing this & loaning this stolen money to the University applicants, we saddle them with massive debt while simultaneously driving up tuition costs as Unis can charge higher than they otherwise could since we've artificially increased students spending power with stolen money.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 246.

    Long term training should not be a party political issue. Labour has suggested linking government contracts to firms offering apprenticeships. The Government should pick up this good idea and include sponsoring post graduates into this linkage to Government contracts. Otherwise the UK gets trapped into low value industries only able to pay low wages.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 245.

    Quite frankly, the anti-intellectualism, low-pay after years of toil, and derision doled out to educated people by people who know the value of everything and the worth of nothing, in all aspects of UK society makes this almost intractable. I still hear so-called "celebs" boasting how innumerate they are in the media, and they are unchallenged, but it should be shameful for them to admit this!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 244.

    Because Govt gives students loans for university, students can afford to pay more than they otherwise could have, as result the universities will raise prices knowing that their customers can afford to pay more. If we abolished student loans (Govt sponsored student debt is a more apt term), we'd see cheaper tuition fees & less student debt. University isn't a right, it's a privilege.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 243.

    Frankly the problem is that effort, talent and useful contribution are NOT regarded positively in the UK (or Europe/USA for that matter).
    Kicking a football (my earlier post), showing off your body (madonna etc), being an 'artist' will get you 'famous' (especially with the BBC) and over paid (in fact above the law from the JS case) and makes sure that hardwork is not worth it.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 242.

    I am a PhD student at Imperial. Many of my peers undertook a PhD as a gateway to an academic career but are now realising that academic careers offer very poor job security due to the way in which research funding operates in this country. Unless adademic careeers begin to involve less risk and sacrifice they will not be attractive to the best researchers.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 241.

    @181
    What did I suggest that the BBC and others are content to promote mindless artists, footballers and 'celebrities' and are part of the problem that leads to 16 year olds with 2 poor gcses getting 52k a year to learn to play football while others who contribute useful stuff to society are offered salaries of 20, 30 or if they are lucky 40k?

 

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