University science degrees best value for taxpayers' money, say public

07 October 2010

Universities' science, engineering, medicine and education are seen as highest priority for providing value for taxpayers' money, according to a survey carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Society of Chemistry.  

Science, engineering and medicine take seven of the top eight places in the survey of the public's value-for-money rating of courses run at British universities.

The survey has chemistry in sixth place, just ahead of biology and physics. 

Also in the top tier are medicine, engineering, mathematics and dentistry.  

Nineteen degree subjects were measured in the survey of adults at the end of September across Great Britain.

The society asked Ipsos MORI to conduct the survey to gain a picture of how people would rate - in the event of government cutting funding - the importance of courses in the sciences, arts and humanities.

The survey was done ahead of the much-heralded Browne review of higher education funding and student finance, due to be published next Monday and the government's spending review the following week.

The survey was conducted in the same week that the Royal Society of Chemistry published a report that demonstrated the impact of chemistry on the UK economy. Prepared independently by Oxford Economics, the report said that one in every five pounds in the UK economy was dependent on developments in chemistry research.

Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: "This confirms what we have been saying about funding of science, which is vital to the short-term and long-term good of the country. We must have appropriate funding so that scientists can continue the essential contribution that they already make to our economic recovery."

"The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to two scientists based at the University of Manchester who were able to conduct their prize-winning research thanks to a centrally funded grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

"Clearly the public recognises the reality and we urge the government to take note and to act accordingly for the welfare of the nation." 

In the survey 1,040 respondents were asked to rate subjects as high, medium or low priority, against taxpayer value. 

Industries reliant on chemistry contributed 258 billion to the UK economy in 2007, equivalent to 21% of UK GDP and supported six million jobs, accounting for at least 15% of the UK's exported goods and attracting significant inward investment.

Professor Sir Robert Worcester, founder of MORI and Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: "It is encouraging to see science at the top of public consciousness at a time when all universities are anxious about the anticipated decline in funding, when competitor countries such as America, Germany and France are all increasing their funding."

The top eight subjects; percentage of respondents who labelled them "high" priority for good value for money



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MORI Poll - September 2010
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