Scientists face debt

October 17, 1997

FUNDING changes suggested by the Dearing committee could deter the best graduates from undertaking science PhDs, warns the Royal Society, Britain's academy of science.

In its response to Dearing, the society expresses concern about the adverse effect tuition fees will have on four-year courses in science and engineering where students will incur a year's extra debt.

To stop the best graduates being put off further study, there should be better financial support for postgraduates. "If no additional funds for this are found, it will be necessary to reduce the number of students supported in order to increase stipends significantly," it says.

The society supports an increase in the indirect costs paid by research councils and agrees that extra money is needed. It says: "This money must be used to pay for infrastructure, not to increase the volume of research."

If no more money is made available, the Royal Society says the best option would be a reduction in the volume of research funded.

It says that the proposal for supporting individual scholarship among lecturers not receiving research funding is "likely to be unsuccessful because the sums involved are relatively small and are drawn from existing research resources, making the support vulnerable to future needs to increase the amount available to research."

* Save British Science, in its response to Dearing, says universities must receive the full value of tuition fees, which must be fed into improving quality and standards.

Priority should be given to correcting problems of underfunding on quality and infrastructure before an expansion of student numbers is resumed, it says, adding that the dual support mechanism must be strengthened with more money given to the research councils to pay full indirect costs.

SBS says departments that score a 3b in the research assessment exercise should continue to be funded. It welcomes the proposed Advisory Council on National Research Policy but calls for its advice not to be confidential.

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