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The perverse effects of governement policies (2)

September 9th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
From an editorial in Time Higher Education. The article explains how under the original government plan funding for the arts and humanities was slashed. In responding to protests they have announced for funds for these subjects but at the expense of expenditure on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It is hard to see any real direction in government higher education policy – other than a desire to privatise universities. But the perverse effects of these policies may very soon have a considerable economic impact. Not for nothing are countries with a far lower GDP than the UK striving to expand education, especially in STEM subjects.
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Now we hear that international student numbers for taught postgraduate STEM courses have almost doubled in eight years whereas those for home students have risen by just 1 per cent, leaving departments vulnerable to fluctuations in the overseas market and the ludicrous vagaries of our visa system.

From 2012-13, science departments will find themselves with only £1,500 per new student on top of the increased tuition fee, despite STEM subjects being far more expensive to teach than classroom-based ones. The AAB policy has delivered a further blow: a number of science and engineering subjects have low proportions of AAB students, leaving departments that teach them open to greater competition.

Mr Willetts was at pains to reassure everyone that there was no cause for alarm as the arts would in fact get a good deal. What he failed to tell us was that this would come at the expense of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

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