Science teaching `heading for disaster'

February 17, 1995

The Association of University Teachers warns of "absolute disaster" for key areas of science in universities because of recruitment difficulties associated with growing numbers of senior scientists retiring from their posts.

David Triesman, general secretary of the AUT, told the Lords science and technology committee on academic careers for graduate scientists last week that over a third of university teachers would retire in the next decade.

Financial restrictions have meant that relatively few new posts have become available so that the average age of the cohort has increased throughout the past decade. "It is a demographic time bomb that is ticking away and nothing has been done to defuse it. " The AUT predicts that biology will suffer a big shortage of scientists by 2003, leading to considerable stress on staff-student ratios. In chemistry, the stock of staff has been declining by 4 per cent per annum, half the chemistry staff will retire in the next 13 years and 1998 is seen as a "crisis year". Mathematics, which produces a little less than 300 PhDs a year, is suffering from major outflows to other industries including finance and will come under severe pressure in 1996. Physics also will be under considerable strain in 1998.

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