What price new moves to halt the brain drain?

July 7, 2000

Wednesday's surprise extra research cash is welcome - even if once again the government is taking credit for spending other people's money. Particularly welcome is the proposed rise in PhD stipends. The flight of bright British graduates from research, thanks to large debts and high salaries elsewhere in the economy, has become increasingly alarming. Anything that helps to keep some of them in academe is welcome.

Chancellor Gordon Brown's announcement, made to a joint UK-US conference, seems to be a further manifestation of his love-in with the United States' research establishment. It suggests a gratifying faith in research's contribution to economic growth. But it also betrays a worrying disregard for the impact finding matching funds may have on UK universities' already overstretched funds for teaching. Nor will improving research training necessarily stem the brain drain. The US is ruthless in recruiting the best, and its universities offer much more enticing working conditions.

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