Brussels, 22 Jan 2003
The director of the save British science society (SBS) has warned the UK government that their higher education reforms could dissuade students from taking scientific degrees.
The changes to student fees and university funding will be announced on 22 January by the UK's Department of Education, but details of some of the measures contained within the reform package were leaked in advance.
SBS director Dr Peter Cotgreave told CORDIS News: 'On the basis of these leaks, there seems to be good news and bad news. While we welcome the fact that students will no longer have to pay tuition fees upfront, we are disappointed that those students wishing to take science courses will have to pay among the highest fees of all.'
Dr Cotgreave's concerns centre on the government's plans to allow universities to set different tuition fee levels for different degree subjects, which many fear will lead to a market in university courses. The cost of laboratory based courses are high when compared to classroom based subjects such as law, suggesting that tuition fees for studying science will be close to the annual 3,000 GBP (4,500 euro) limit.
Many argue that such a system for calculating fees takes no account of the earning potential of graduates after they leave university. Dr Cotgreave is worried about the effect on the quality of research in the UK: 'If we want to attract bright students, especially those from poorer backgrounds, to pursue careers in research, which is vital for any knowledge based economy, we simply can't make it more expensive to study science.'
SBS members, along with the wider scientific community, are also keen to discover details of the UK government's plans for research funding, which will be included in the review. They fear that if funding levels are cut, attracting science students will become even harder, and those that do graduate with scientific degrees will be drawn to countries such as the US to follow careers in research.