Postgraduate Training and Research

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th February 1988.

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Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart 12:00 am, 16th February 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what study he has made of the trends in the number of British students of high ability wishing to do postgraduate training and research; and in what subjects he sees cause for concern because of poor career prospects.

Mr. Jackson:

Institutions are responsible for the provision of and recruitment to postgraduate courses. Overall, however, the recruitment of British students in 1986 compared with 1980 was 6·6 per cent. higher on full-time courses and almost 28 per cent. higher on part-time courses.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Is the Minister aware that despite his answer, there are many young, outstanding scientists in Britain who are deterred from undertaking postgraduate research or who go abroad to do that research because of the poor career prospects in Britain? Does he agree with Sir David Philips, chairman of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, that we are in great danger of falling behind our foreign competitors in terms of industrial development because of the Government's failure properly to invest in civil research? Will the Government ever understand the close connection between Government-backed investment and industrial development?

Mr. Jackson:

I have to point out to the hon. Gentleman that the numbers of postgraduates in science have increased by one third since 1979. As for his observations about Government expenditure on civil research and development, an examination of the proportion of the national product invested in civil research and development by Governments makes it clear that we spend more than the United States and Japan.

Photo of Mr Roger King Mr Roger King , Birmingham, Northfield

Will my hon. Friend confirm that as our economy picks up and our manufacturing industry expands throughout Britain the opportunities for students to move into engineering and manufacturing disciplines have never been better?

Mr. Jackson:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The recruitment of graduates and postgraduates into a wide range of occupations is flourishing. That is confirmed by all the statistics relating to graduate and postgraduate recruitment.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Will the Minister confirm that the proportion of well-qualified students with first-class honours and good second-class honours who are failing to get research funds has steadily increased during the past few years?

Mr. Jackson:

I shall have to look into the figures that the hon. Gentleman quoted, and I shall certainly come back to him on that point. The resources made available by central Government for science have risen by 15 per cent. in real terms since 1979 and by 1·5 per cent. in the past year.