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Spring Budget reveals increased investment in STEM education

Chancellor Phillip Hammond's first budget announcements focused on technical education and industrial strategy

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | March 09, 2017 | Finance, legal, HR

By Charley Rogers

Yesterday’s budget announcements from chancellor Phillip Hammond have revealed an increased investment in STEM subject research of £300m, as well as the introduction of new ‘T-Levels’, and technical students’ training hours being increased by more than 50%.

Alongside the increased focus on technical education in the UK, the budget also revealed £320m of funding for 100 new free schools and grammar schools, and free school transport for all pupils that qualify for free school meals at selective schools.

Dr. Tim Russell, Acting Director of the Russell Group commented: “Supporting science and research is an investment in growth and jobs. The spending priorities outlined by the Chancellor today will lead to new discoveries, new products and services, new companies, and a stronger UK economy.

International staff and students are fundamental to the work of our world-leading universities and our ability to attract the best from around the world pays huge dividends to the UK economy and society

“The commitment to invest £90m in grants to support an additional 1000 PhD places will help secure a pipeline of research talent for the UK. Along with research funding for key science and technology challenge areas, this is a good start to taking forward the new industrial strategy.”

The National Centre for Universities and Business also welcomed the government’s continuing commitment to Higher Education and support for life-long learning, to ensure UK industry has the talent and research required to hold its global position. Dr. David Docherty, National Centre Chief Executive said: “Today’s budget rightly recognises the importance of supporting education and development for the UK’s increasingly diverse workforce. Maintenance loans for part-time undergraduates, doctoral loans in all subjects, up to £40m investment in life-long learning, and additional funding for research talent goes some way in addressing the skills and talent challenges of the 21st century.” 

Dr. Russell of the Russell Group also praised the move to attract international talent to the UK, saying that “International staff and students are fundamental to the work of our world-leading universities and our ability to attract the best from around the world pays huge dividends to the UK economy and society.”

University Alliance Chief Executive Maddalaine Ansell said: “Alliance universities educate over 25% of the UK's STEM graduates and have strength and depth in STEM research, so the additional funds for PhD studentships are welcome alongside funds to attract researchers from overseas. The Research Councils must distribute these funds on the basis of fair and open competition, recognising excellence wherever it is found, and the creation of UKRI must be used as an opportunity to iron out the administrative issues that have prevented this from happening in the past.  

It is also positive to see a renewed emphasis on technical and professional education. But to achieve genuine parity of esteem – which ministers say they want – they must ensure there are progression routes to degree level and above

“It is also positive to see a renewed emphasis on technical and professional education. But to achieve genuine parity of esteem – which ministers say they want – they must ensure there are progression routes to degree level and above. Universities – particularly Alliance institutions, with experience in delivering high-level, skills-rich courses designed with employers – have a crucial role to play here. Rather than seeing academic and technical skills as entirely separate, Britain needs graduates who can combine high-level academic, technical and professional skills. If these are to be developed through two separate routes, there must be clear pathways between the two and an expectation that either can take you to doctorate level and beyond.  

 

“We are also pleased to see that ministers have heeded University Alliance’s call for action on lifelong learning, with the announcement of pilots to test innovative approaches, alongside greater flexibility in funding to support people to retrain and upskill throughout life. We know that part-time and mature students are more debt averse, so the policy should be monitored closely and a different – and grant-based – form of support may be needed.” 

More details on the Spring Budget can be found at www.gov.uk

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