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CaSE Diary

The Case Diary includes the latest information on our activites. The Diary archive, available via the links on the left, includes diary entries as well as all the information from our What's New section.


August 2004
SBS today highlighted the problems associated with changing the way university science is funded. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, SBS criticised the way that science students will no longer be funded at twice the level of arts students, to cover the additional costs of laboratory equipment. The text of the letter is as follows:


Sir, Dr Henry Warson makes a clear case that "government funding to universities should be adjusted in favour of practical sciences" (Daily Telegraph, Aug 27), given that the economic benefits of science are considerable, but the costs of laboratory equipment make science and engineering relatively expensive to teach.
In fact, until this year, universities have recieved twice as much public funding for each science student as they have for each student in library-based subjects but, in a bizarre change of policy, that ratio is being reduced next year in England, so that institutions will receive only 1.7 times as much investment in science as they do in arts and humanities.
Everyone knows that universities are under-funded, but there is no credible reason to suppose that the sciences are somehow better off than other subjects, and can afford to have the scales tipped against them in this way. Indeed, recent evidence suggests quite the opposirte, as university chemistry departments are closing, partly because they cannot balance the books on current levels of funding
(Daily Telegraph, 23 August).


26/08/04 Science in schools
After weeks of depressing news about science exams, SBS today welcomed the increase in the number of young people taking science GCSEs. "I've got fed up of having to complain about science tests with the Daily Express, Guardian, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror all running stories this week that quote me as banging on about how the education system is failing," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. "It's great to be hear some positive news, and we sincerely hope that the upturn in children stuyding science at GCSE is the first sign that the scientific and educational communities are making progress in reinvigorating children's interest in the subject."


19/08/04 Science A-levels
SBS today expressed concern at the fall in students choosing to study science at A-level. Commenting in the Daily Mirror and elsewhere, SBS said that it was seriously worrying that entries to science A-levels had fallen by 6.5%, including a 6.2% in physics. "We are not going to have the pool of talent from which to darw the next generation of scientists, maths teachers, researchers and inventors," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. "A one-off fall in entries wouldn't be the end of the world, but these declines come after years of previous falls."


18/08/04 Industrial R&D
SBS today welcomed the growth of manufacturing jobs in the UK, and called on industry to invest in the R&D that helps to create employment in manufacturing and engineering. In an article in Innovation Policy Review, SBS points out that the people of Britain "cannot make a living merely by holding doors open for one another an designing each other's websites". "We need engineering jobs," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. What we want to see is a virtuous circle, in which recent investment in publicly-funded science leads to stronger collaborations with industry, leading the private sector to invest more, and make the UK one of the world leaders in high-technology industry.


12/08/04 Closure of university science departments
SBS today pointed out the importance to the economy of maintaining science departments in a range of universities across the country. In a letter to the Independent, responding to an article that argued that nobody should care if chemistry departments were to close down, SBS argues that the British economy requires trained scientists, and we cannot allow the future prosperity of the nation to be jeopardised by the whim of 18-year olds, who are currently choosing not to study the physical sciences. The text of the letter is as follows:


Sir, Peter Knight (Independent, 7 August) is right that higher education institutions must respond to what students want, and that chemistry cannot perpetually be treated as a special case when universities have difficulty balancing the books.
However, it would be foolish to allow sections of our economy to wither merely because the current crop of 18-year olds chooses to snub the physical sciences. The UK commands 6% of the global chemical industry's sales included in the Government's worldwide survey of science-based companies, but at least one major corporation has said publicly that it is increasingly turning to continental Europe for trained chemists. If, as a nation, we cannot be bothered to adopt a more sophisticated approach than allowing the prejudices of A-level students to determine our education policies, companies will move investment and jobs out of the UK.
A little strategic planning - so that students forced to live at home through financial pressures have a reasonable chance of finding a local course in physics or chemistry - would help ensure that the UK can produce sufficient economically-productive graduates in the future.
In the medium term, the Higher Education Funding Council needs to fix the ridiculous and deliberate funding bias that causes universities to lose more money for teaching a chemistry student than they do for teaching a student in the arts. In the long term, if the nation's economy is to thrive, we need to find innovative ways of encouraging young people to study the broadest range of culturally, economically and socially relevant subjects.


04/08/04 Private investment in R&D
SBS re-emphasised the importance of measures to encourage private industry to invest in R&D. In three very different publications, SBS showed how important science is to the UK economy, and how much more needs to be done to make sure that British firms invest in the future. For example, in and editorial the Dundee Courier uses SBS's data to prove how important research is to the local economy, and urges greater links with scientists around the world for the good of Scotland's economic growth. Research Fortnight reports SBS's disappointment that the Government's 10-year plan for science does not contain enough carrots and sticks to lever extra funds from industry for research, and in an article in Laboratory News, SBS again stresses that the Government must do more if it is to realise its ambition for British industry.