Pay for the skills you want

September 25, 2014

I have the greatest respect for my colleague Dame Ann Dowling, but I wonder if industry is being entirely straight with her when it claims to need double the current number of graduate engineers (“Seeing great ideas through to the finish line”, News, 28 August). If there were a true shortage, then I would expect to see individual companies advertising enthusiastically and competing to pay higher salaries. Neither of these appears to be the case.

For some years I have monitored the salaries offered to graduate scientists by STEM-sector employers, as appears in the rather sparse recruitment pages of New Scientist, Physics World and similar. They are currently about £24K a year, which compares to that of a National Express coach driver – but the non-graduate coach driver gets additional overtime, starts earning four years earlier, and pays about 75 per cent of the marginal tax rate once student loan repayments are taken into account.

Perhaps it’s too cynical to accuse industry of talking up surplus production in order to keep salaries down. More likely, employers have not asked themselves why they have difficulty recruiting. I suspect that what industry means is not that we need to produce twice as many graduates, but that they need twice the number who (a) have the right skills, (b) don’t want a PhD and (c) are prepared to forgo substantially higher salaries in finance and consulting. If so, then “Physician, heal thyself”. Some clarity on what they are looking for would be good, and competitive starting salaries may well be a more efficacious prescription than expanding courses.

Rachael Padman
Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge

In the feature “Please sir, can I have some more?” (18 September), you report Alan Milburn noting that postgraduate qualifications are an increasingly important part of professional jobs in UK industry. Indeed.
So when it comes to funding study for them, why not levy a tax on employers who take on the well-qualified and, no doubt, benefit very considerably from doing so?

Keith Flett
London

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

Cricket player and umpire exchanging bribe

The need to accommodate foreign students undermines domestic practices, says Lincoln Allison, spying parallels between UK universities and global sports bodies such as Fifa