Hefce taken to task 3

July 8, 2005

On the one hand, the UK mathematics community falls short of reproducing itself. On the other, mathematicians have the highest earnings expectations of all graduates ("Home PhDs trumped by overseas maths experts", July 1).

This is hardly the efficient market that the Higher Education Funding Council for England believes it is operating. But the Hefce analysis of the market is flawed. The key change has been the boom in jobs in information technology and finance. As a result, few maths graduates or PhDs become teachers or lecturers, with the result that demand outstrips supply even further.

In an efficient market, career prospects alone would motivate teenagers to study maths, but this is surely neither realistic nor desirable. If the nation wishes to supply its jobs market, schools maths teaching must be improved and better funding and bursaries provided in universities. Hefce already sets the financial parameters for the student market: why does it fear intervening further?

Niall MacKay
York University

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