Impact of Government Cuts
Government Cuts Could Deepen Skills Shortages
The Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) has issued a plea for the government to re-consider huge reductions to university funding
Following the news that universities may face up to £4.2 billion in cuts in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, the IET argues that the importance of tomorrow’s engineers to the UK economy cannot be underestimated. Engineering and technology bring hundreds of billions of pounds into the UK economy every year.
Despite the substantial economic contribution from engineering, there is a growing skills shortage within the sector that has the propensity to negatively affect the economy. The IET’s recent National Skills Survey revealed that only 47% of engineering companies believe the UK has the skills base to re-balance the sector or create a low carbon economy.
According to the latest data, the funding university engineering departments receive from the government and students’ tuition fees is not meeting course costs, with funding shortfalls as high as 15% in some instances.
In deciding the proportion of course costs which should be met by the government relative to the proportion which should be met by students, a calculation must be made based on the extent of the “public benefit” of courses relative to the “private benefit” (i.e. benefit to the students taking the course). For a subject like engineering, which is expensive to deliver but vital to the UK’s economic future, a high proportion of the total funding should be provided by the government. Following Lord Browne’s recommendation to lift the cap on university fees, the skills gap could easily widen even further as raising tuition fees will be the only way to make up for lost state funding.
“It is important for the future of the economy to make sure that engineering benefits, rather than suffers, from the changes to the university funding system,” says Hugo Donaldson, Principal Policy Advisor at the IET. “If the UK is to meet the skills needs of the engineering sector, universities must be given the funding they need to offer a high quality education. Given the need to increase the number of students applying for engineering courses, there are strong arguments for the government meeting a high proportion of the shortfall in funding rather than students.”