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James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering 321

Posted by samzenpus
from the change-your-major dept.
DavidGilbert99 writes "The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner believes there is an engineering crisis in the UK and that 61,000 vacancies in the area will go unfilled in 2014. To address this Dyson believes says he wants the UK government to offer monetary incentives to students with an interest and aptitude in science — as well as changing the current visa system to make it easier for foreign students to remain in the country and get work once they have completed their education in the UK."
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James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering

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  • by fantomas (94850) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:13AM (#46140499)

    Not sure why the article describes this a "controversial proposal". In the 1980s in the UK many (all?) undergraduates got grants (scholarships from the state for living expenses) as well as all their course fees paid.

    Perhaps it's an indication of how politics have changed that the proposal to reinstate something the people assumed was a normal expenditure by the government of the day, both left and right wing, for several decades (state support of people undertaking university studies) is now considered "controversial".

    Ah happy memories of the grant cheque coming in, bank managers trying to appear down with the kids to get them to sign up for their first bank account with that large cheque and more to follow, financial management learnt by many who hadn't previously had anything more than their weekly income from a paper round striding down the streets of a big new city with three months of bed and board advance payments burning a hole in their pockets...

  • by ngibbins (88512) on Monday February 03, 2014 @11:50AM (#46140895)
    Dyson's talking about the UK, where over the last decade and a half we've moved from a higher education system funded from general taxation, to one in which teaching is funded almost entirely through tuition fees. A student studying for a four-year undergraduate masters (typical for engineering subjects in the UK) now faces a debt of £36,000 (US$60,000) for their tuition alone; living expenses (rent, food) will typically add upwards of £20,000 to the overal cost. By contrast, when I graduated with BSc Computer Science in 1994, I did so without debt; my tuition and living expenses were paid for by my local education authority, as was then the norm. As a result, we're seeing a decline in admissions across science engineering as a whole, and a very pronounced shift from four year MEng degrees to three year BSc/BEng. The decline varies from discipline to discipline; computer science so far seems to have got off quite lightly, but others have been hit much harder (materials science, for example). It's very touching that you believe that the invisible hand is going to make everything better, but the reality is that any correction in engineering salaries is likely to take decades (if not longer), and the shortage of STEM graduates is rather more immediate. Dyson's arguments are sensible, and effectively take us back to the situation of the early 90s: tuition fees would be paid by the state. He also makes reference to the decline of the post-study work permit system that used to exist in the UK; it used to be the case that overseas students at UK universities would get a two year work permit. This was a boon for UK engineering employers - I've employed several such graduates on my projects. The decisions made by the current UK government (and to a lesser extent to the previous Labour government, for they introduced tuition fees, albeit at a lower level) have been harmful to both UK higher education and to UK science and engineering. (an explanatory note to the above: I'm a lecturer (US professor) at a research-led UK university, and the coordinator for an undergraduate computer science degree programme - I know what I'm talking about)
  • by prefec2 (875483) on Monday February 03, 2014 @01:16PM (#46141831)

    It will not work. In Germany, university access is free and you can even get some state money to finance your studies. While this is generally a good idea (and bad implemented in Germany), they have no positive effect on the number of engineering students. Its very simple: You do not study engineering if you do not want be an engineer. Most people are not interested in engineering. If you want to change the number of students, change their interest. Money is not a good motivator for such a university topic.

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