Lords and Ladies to consider the UK science base

A press release issued today from the House of Lords announces that the science and technology subcommittee of Britain’s unelected, senate-like parliamentary body is inviting contributions to a new inquiry which will ask how the UK “builds the educational foundations it needs to face the challenges of the future”. That broad-brush question is designed to focus reader attention on the specific issue of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in higher education, and the crisis thereof. If indeed there is one.

This is all very well, but I must say that our peers are a bit late in the game, what with every political Tom, Dick and Harry having already asked the question, and done little more than come up with answers that fit in with their ideological prejudices and corporate interests, overt or hidden. Still, one shouldn’t be too cynical about what is undoubtedly a critical issue.

What strikes me about the House of Lords approach is the list of three questions that will form the basis of its inquiry…

  • Are there enough high-quality STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine] graduates and post-graduates to meet the needs of industry, government and the country’s research base?
  • Are employers providing the right incentives to attract the best STEM graduates?
  • What can we learn from other countries’ experiences?

Good grief! Learning from other countries’ experience is not something that comes easily to the English. But still, it is a positive start.

Written evidence should be submitted by 16 December 2011.