Paul Boateng, chief secretary to the Treasury in the UK, has called on politicians and scientists to recognise the importance of further education (FE) in the UK.
Vikki Allen/London, UK
Paul Boateng, chief secretary to the Treasury in the UK, has called on politicians and scientists to recognise the importance of further education (FE) in the UK. It’s an educational need often overlooked and should be considered equally alongside higher education (HE), ensuring that the UK invests in the skills base necessary for a firm technical grounding, he said.
Boateng compared attitudes towards scientific technicians in the UK with those towards technicians in countries including Germany and Japan. In these countries, he argues, the technical sector is accorded greater significance. Supporting the science technicians of the future means supporting students to higher national diploma (HND), A-level or equivalent standard.
However with the emphasis on research in UK educational institutions, there is no longer a network of technical courses available. FE colleges that continue to offer chemistry often find it difficult to enrol viable groups of students, since students reportedly feel that the choice is simply between studying for a degree or not studying at all. Consequently, employers have to look to graduates or school leavers to fill these technical roles.
Boateng raised the issue when called to give evidence to the House of Commons science and technology committee reviewing proposals to the government’s spending plan for science and innovation over the next 10 years (2004-2014). He highlightedthe roles that both HE and FE play in underpinning science in the UK.
The RSC, which promotes diversity and provision in its campaign for chemistry, is pleased to see the issue raised.
’This situation is not going to be easy to redress,’ said Tony Ashmore, RSC registrar. ’In FE, the capacity and expertise has largely been lost’.
The government plans to raise R & D investment by 0.6 per cent to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2014. The figure is significantly lower than the EU target of three per cent over the same period.