Anger at cut in grants for young engineers

November 8, 1996

The Government's axing of a bursary scheme for promising engineering students has been slammed as "disgusting and thoughtless" by the Engineering Professors' Council and the Engineering Council, writes Kam Patel.

In an angry letter to Gillian Shephard, Education and Employment Secretary, council chairman John Spence voices "extreme dismay" that the Top Flight Bursary Scheme is to cease this year. The initiative provides a bursary of Pounds 500 a year for a number of high-flying students on engineering courses that are accredited by one of the professional institutions.

Professor Spence, based at Strathclyde University's mechanical engineering department, complained that the decision was taken without looking at its success. "In the case of individual universities with which I am familiar, the scheme has undoubtedly raised the profile of engineering in the eyes of potential students with the highest qualifications," he says. To have had a lasting impact, the scheme would need to have operated for a few more years.

Applicants for admission in 1997 will be "extremely disappointed" to learn of the scheme's termination. "This is a most unfortunate message to send to young people at a time when recruitment to engineering is becoming very difficult."

Robin Bond of the Engineering Council said he was "totally disgusted" by the decision. "It is contrary to what is in the best interests of the country. The scheme succeeded in wooing bright young people away from more fashionable subjects such as communication studies and leisure and tourism whose contribution to wealth creation is dubious."

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