Azara Blog: There are not many British postgraduate students in science and engineering

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Date published: 2007/09/13

The BBC says:

Foreign students are propping up British universities in key subject areas like science and engineering, a report for UK vice-chancellors says.

More than a fifth of students in subjects deemed "strategic" by the government come from overseas, the Universities UK (UUK) report found.

Only 29% of postgraduate students in these areas are from the UK, with more than half coming from non-EU countries.
Strategic subjects are defined as those which are vital on the grounds of wealth creation, diplomacy, international relations and cultural grounds.

They include science subjects, mathematics, technology, engineering and languages.

Chairman of UUK's long term strategy group Professor Geoffrey Crossick said the lack of UK-born postgraduate students was leading universities to fill their posts with foreign applicants.

The figures underscored "the importance of international students, not only for the financial health of UK higher education, but also for the renewal of disciplines in many areas and in underpinning the UK's world-class research base."

He added: "The concern is that should people return home, the flow of researchers will dry up and that will cause problems for the UK economy.

"The important thing for UK universities now is not to have fewer researchers from abroad but to build up more from the UK."

This is just part of the trend of the globalisation of science. And the main point of studying science or engineering at the undergraduate or postgraduate level for most people is that it opens up lots of non-research jobs (e.g. in the City). Most students do not end up doing research, since there are not that many (quasi-permanent) research jobs either in universities or in the real world (and they also don't pay well). So all in all it's not clear whether anyone should be worried about this trend.

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