Wales suffers slump in research applications

January 10, 2003

Recruitment to part-time degree courses is booming in Welsh higher education but institutions are struggling to attract part-time and full-time postgraduate researchers, funding council figures show.

Over the past ten years, enrolment on part-time undergraduate courses in Wales has more than doubled to over 18,000, while enrolment on part-time postgraduate taught programmes rose from about 2,600 to 6,500.

Over the same period, 1992-93 to 2001-02, the rise in full-time enrolments has been less dramatic. For full-time and sandwich undergraduate courses, numbers increased f`rom about 38,000 to 50,000, with most of the growth taking place in the first five years.

Enrolment to full-time postgraduate taught courses rose from 2,800 to about 4,250, with the biggest rises again in the first five years. In marked contrast, enrolments to full and part-time postgraduate research programmes barely grew over ten years. In the case of full-time courses, enrolments have risen from 1,100 in 1992-93 to about 1,400 in 2001-02.

Numbers fell in the past two years. Recruitment of part-time postgraduate researchers has barely increased from its 1992-93 starting point of 700, with numbers falling in the past three years.

The figures follow a warning issued last month by researchers that Wales had become the poorest region in the UK for research and development. They blamed this on underinvestment and weak policy planning.

The data also show changes in the volume of research activity in Welsh institutions compared with the 1996 research assessment exercise. The figures show a 10 per cent rise in the number of research-active staff entered in the RAE but a 48 per cent fall in the number of research fellows.

• The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has pledged £2 million to create four widening participation partnership groups of universities and colleges.

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