Masters get 5-year deadline to pay

October 23, 1998

Taught masters courses in the physical sciences will be radically overhauled to make them more relevant to industry if proposals from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council get the go-ahead this week.

It is proposing to fund taught masters courses for five years only and then wants each course to attract funding from elsewhere.

Richard Brook, chief executive of the EPSRC, said: "Some of the taught masters courses have been running for 40 years. They have evolved, but there is still a conflict with the need to make courses topical and current.

"Existing masters programmes are very good but perhaps it might be a good idea to look at them every half century."

Under the proposals, universities would put forward plans for new training courses that could include, for example, modules based on work experience in industry. The proposals would be assessed by the EPSRC and the best ones would be funded for five years. Money would be available for student grants and course development. When time was up, the EPSRC would withdraw its investment, expecting the courses to become self-funded with students either paying or getting sponsorship from industry.

Scientists are worried that industry would not fund courses, particularly in a recession.

Existing courses would have to submit to the assessment procedure and, if they passed, would be funded only for five more years. In 1995, the EPSRC funded 1,957 students doing masters courses.

The research council has just completed a consultation exercise to assess the community's reaction to the proposals. About a third of the respondents were for the idea, a third were lukewarm and a third were against, according to Professor Brook.

The timetable for introducing the scheme was being debated as The THES went to press. "It would be attractive to see some students beginning these courses in 1999 rather than 2000," Professor Brook said.

Nojakekp_xy Body of work: advertising mogul and art collector Charles Saatchi is donating 130 pieces from his collection to create scholarship bursaries for students attending four of his favourite art colleges: Chelsea, Goldsmiths, The Slade and Royal College of Art. Rachel Whiteread's Untitled (Square Sink), Cindy Sherman's colour photograph Untitled No. 122 (Angry Blond), Jenny Saville's Prop (above) and Damien Hirst's The Lovers (spontaneous, committed, detached, compromising) are among pieces on sale at Christie's in an auction expected to raise Pounds 1 million. Successful projects will be shown at the Saatchi Gallery and brought into the collection.

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