£160m fillip for at risk subjects

February 9, 2007

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is injecting £160 million into providing "effective, targeted and proportionate" support for subjects at risk.

It has been working with universities to flag up early warnings of department closures to enable it to provide support or help transfer provision to other institutions.

The programme was launched after an advisory group published a report in 2005 into ways of supporting "strategic and vulnerable subjects" of national importance, following a request by Charles Clarke, who was Education Secretary at that time, for Hefce to investigate the issue.

Hefce has also been working with learned societies to increase student demand for key subjects, and with the research councils to boost demand in vulnerable fields.

The programme covers science, technology, engineering and mathematics, area studies and related minority languages, modern foreign languages, land-based studies and quantitative social science. For instance, Hefce put £3.2 million towards the science and innovation awards.

There is also an £11 million fund to build capacity in biology and Pounds 20 million to develop world-class researchers with language skills to help the UK's understanding of the Arabic world, China, Japan and Eastern Europe.

A further £75 million goes to support very high-cost science subjects that are strategically important to the economy but vulnerable because of relatively low student demand.

The London Engineering Project has about £5.5 million to increase participation by non-traditional students; Chemistry for our Future has Pounds 3.6 million, and the Stimulating Physics project has £1.8 million. A project on Increasing the Supply of Mathematical Science Graduates has Pounds 3.3 million, and the British Computer Society has seed funding to develop a similar project.

In September 2006, Hefce announced £4.5 million for its Routes into Languages programme to encourage more young people to continue studying languages.

The work will be reviewed in 2008 after the Comprehensive Spending Review.

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