HC Deb 02 November 1976 vol 918 cc1188-9
11. Mr. Hooky

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many places in science and technological subjects, other than medicine or dentistry, but including mathematics, remained unfilled in October 1976 in the universities and polytechnics of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Oakes

In terms of physical capacity in science and technology departments, there are something like 27,000 such places, which would allow for an increase in annual entry of about 9,000 in universities in Great Britain and polytechnics in England and Wales. These figures take no account of the availability of staff, and other resources, which also determine the number of students that may be accepted in particular disciplines.

Mr. Hooky

Does my hon. Friend agree that the critical decision is made by boys and girls about their higher education not at 18 but at 16? Does he further agree that we shall be lumbered with this problem of a shortage of technologists and scientists until we do something about excessive specialisation in the sixth form? Will he address his mind to that?

Mr. Oakes

I do address my mind to that. I disagree with my hon. Friend that a decision is necessarily taken as late as 16. Sometimes decisions to drop mathematics or science are taken at 12 or 13 as the Prime Minister made clear in his speech at Ruskin College.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister of State accept that the shortages of scientists and technologists in industry are a result not only of the education that they receive but of the education received by managers in industry who often do not know how to use people of high qualification, which leads to people being frustrated and deters others from entering upon such a career?

Mr. Oakes

It is true to say that industry needs to improve its image and that that image must conform to reality. It is a two-way process. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has encouraged this national debate on education, so that the two sides can talk to each other.