RSC statement on Browne report

12 October 2010

Aspects of the Browne report that increase access to higher education should be welcomed, but the Government should ensure that high value for money subjects are accessible to everyone, said the Royal Society of Chemistry today.

Ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) it is clear that the higher education system in the UK is in need of radical reform. This reform should minimise the impact of spending cuts on students and researchers and allow maximum accessibility to strategically important subjects.

The government should prioritise subjects such as science and engineering, whose economic return and strategic importance to the UK is greatest. Science is essential to the successful rebalancing of our economy; a recent report found that 258bn (or 21%) of the UK economy is dependent on developments in chemistry research.

Lab-based subjects such as chemistry earn universities government funding that is 1.7 times the average per student, which is still woefully inadequate. The imbalance of funding is set to become all the more difficult for lab-based subjects in combination with the presumed imminent teaching budget cuts in the CSR.

The public view science and engineering as the best value for money in terms of economic return. A poll conducted for the RSC by Ipsos MORI found the public ranked science and engineering subjects above all others in terms of value for money.

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC, said today that "science cannot become the preserve of the rich. We need a higher education system that offers all prospective students a chance to fulfil their potential and desires, not one that limits them to only what they feel they can afford."

Dr Pike has also called on Britain's rich to follow their American counterparts' philanthropic model of donating to their former universities to maintain their world-class standing.

He said the nation's universities were in their hour of need and, with state funding of universities set to plummet, a financial gap needed filling as soon as possible in the post-Browne Review era. 

"For this gap to be plugged, the government needs to establish a better framework with incentives for wealthier individuals to donate to their alma mater," said Dr Pike. 

"The 1,029 US colleges surveyed received a whopping $27.9bn. It's little wonder therefore that 13 of the world's top 20 universities are in the United States. We need to match them."

Downloadable Files

The Economic Benefits of Chemistry Research to the UK
September 2010
PDF iconPDF (1285k)  

RSC submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review 2010
October 2010 - download the full copy
PDF iconPDF (1268k)  

MORI Poll - September 2010
Download the full report
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