Graduate studies, economic revival and doing the wrong thing
This blog post is coming to you from California. This is a state that has a good few problems, including serious public funding issues. However, there is a widespread consensus that universities will need to continue to build up their programmes of postgraduate studies, both taught and by research. Silicon Valley in particular mops up people with postgraduate qualifications, and economic problems notwithstanding, demand is increasing.
In Britain on the other hand the various postgraduate funding bodies are, according to information obtained by the Labour Party, dramatically cutting funded numbers doing both Masters and PhD programmes, in some cases by 30 per cent and more. Given the needs of the economy and society more generally, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It is in fact likely that over the coming decade or two universities in developed countries will tend to re-balance their portfolios somewhat in favour of postgraduate courses and research, a trend that Britain may not be able to follow to the extent that it should.
This development will probably reinforce the concern felt by some that the UK government does not have a fully worked out strategy on higher education, and that too many measures appear to have budgetary rather than educational reasons. As industrial investment and new start-ups are increasingly knowledge-intensive in nature, this must be reflected in the strategic development of higher education. That link is not sufficiently in evidence right now.
In Ireland there may also be a problem regarding graduate research funding, and here too it will be vital that postgraduate studies continue to grow, and that the major research centres are able to fund PhD students.