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Teaching And Research Work

Volume 958: debated on Tuesday 14 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, what further steps she is taking to make teaching and research work in colleges, polytechnics and universities more relevant to industrial and commercial needs.

:Progress is being made towards a greater responsiveness to industrial and commercial needs throughout further and higher education. Industry and commerce are well represented on the Council for National Academic Awards and the technician and business education councils. The research councils are promoting research of industrial relevance in the universities and polytechnics, many of which have strong links with particular firms.

:But does not my hon. Friend accept that, in view of the existing shortage of skill and the need to move into areas of high technology, the progress being made is lamentably slow? Will he discuss with the universities some of their research projects, as the bulk of those projects seem to be of little use to man or beast?

I agree that much more still needs to be done. By the creation of special engineering courses at seven universities, and the industrial scholarship scheme, the Government are trying to ensure that progress is faster in this direction.

With regard to the research at universities, at many universities there are strong links with individual firms whereby the university undertakes research for the firm. I should like to see much more of that as well.

:Is the Minister aware that in West Germany, for example, it is often not possible for an applicant to obtain a teaching post in engineering if he or she does not have industrial experience? What steps is he considering along the lines of setting up industrial units, for example, in individual universities or encouraging teaching companies, to increase this healthy trend?

We have set up industrial units and teaching companies in a number of universities.

The question of a lecturer's being appointed only if he has industrial experience is a matter for the universities.

:Does the Minister accept that there is great benefit in having lecturers and, for that matter, school teachers—particularly careers masters at schools—who have had industrial experience? Does he agree that there should be a facility to encourage that if not to make it compulsory?

I entirely agree that there is enormous benefit. In many of the schemes that the Government have introduced with regard to science and mathematics teachers, we look particularly to those who have been in industry and who might wish to have a career in teaching, because they prove to be of inestimable value as teachers.

:Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a question not only of making courses more relevant to the country's needs but of preventing ludicrous duplication and overlapping of courses between universities and polytechnics? What steps is he taking to bring the universites into a more publicly accountable system?

:The universities are responsible for their own research, but there is quite a degree of consultation between them and polytechnics on courses. As for links between polytechnics and duplication of courses, if the report of the committee of which I was chairman is implemented, much can be done in that direction as well