HL Deb 19 March 1985 vol 461 cc395-8
Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the percentage demand for graduates available for employment in 1983 and 1984 respectively.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, the information collected centrally on the employment of graduates relates to the first destination as at 31st December each year of graduates obtaining first degrees from higher education institutions in Great Britain. For 1983, this shows that of the 91,000 graduates covered, 51 per cent. were in permanent home employment, 24 per cent. in further study or training, 12 per cent. were unemployed, and the remainder fell into other categories. Information for 1984 is not yet available.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

My Lords, while thanking the Minister very much for that most interesting reply, may I ask one further question? Do graduates in some subjects find employment more readily than in others? If this is the case, what are the Government going to do to encourage the output of graduates in these particular subjects?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, the specialist skills of graduates in electronic engineering, mathematics, and business-related social studies are sought by many employers. As a result of various initiatives, including the Government's information technology programme, the national advisory body's 1984–1985 planning exercise and universities' intentions to increase student intakes to scientific and technological subjects, engineering and computer science graduate output is projected to increase from its level of around 13,000 in 1980–81 to over 17,000 in 1989–90. However, the Government are considering what further measures may be necessary and they intend to make an announcement very soon.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in Japan there are eight times as many graduates in science and engineering per head of population as there are in this country, and this gap is becoming wider and wider? Can the Government encourage local industry to take an interest and perhaps provide scholarships, not only at the universities but also to science and mathematics teachers in local schools? Then there would be a strong encouragement of the best teaching and therefore the best chances of the right people going up to the universities in these disciplines.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, the Government are keen to encourage fruitful links between higher education and industry. A wide range of links already exists. Many have sprung from local initiatives. For example, almost all institutions have staff operating in liaison bureaux and industrial units whose function is to encourage and promote links with companies. A substantial number of institutions have set up or are planning science parks. Other links have arisen from Government-sponsored activities. For example, the Science and Engineering Research Council's teaching company scheme, which is jointly funded with the Department of Trade and Industry, brings together individual firms and academic departments to tackle a piece of research or development to mutual advantage. I do not know whether I can give an encouraging answer to my noble friend about the idea of providing scholarships for teachers in schools. I think that might run into some difficulties; but I shall certainly draw it to the attention of my right honourable friend.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, has the Minister figures available as to the successive placement rates of different universities and polytechnics? In particular, what is the placement rate of Aston University and Salford, both of which were severely cut by the UGC two or three years ago?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I do not have any figures for the individual institutions. I shall have to find out and write to the noble Baroness with that information.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient courses in electronics and kindred subjects at universities all over the country? Is he aware that I am assured that there seems to be a certain deficiency in this area in Scotland?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I do not think anyone in the Government is ever completely satisfied about anything. I am sure that there is always room for more. However, I understand that there are now about 35,000 more students in science and technology subjects ranging across higher education than there were in 1979–80.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the Chairman of the Conservative Party is very contented about everything?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am sure he is.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the director of the Alvey programme, in evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Education and Training for New Technologies, said that there would need to be a growth of 8 per cent. per annum over the next decade in the pool of scientists and technologists to meet the needs of industry? Has the Minister been assured that the figures that he has given us this afternoon will take that point into account?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I understand that there is to be a debate on this subject on Monday of next week and the noble Baroness might be able to obtain better answers then. As I said, we are looking at these figures and an announcement is expected very soon.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, can the noble Earl provide figures for unemployed graduates on thick and thin sandwich courses, as opposed to the average for the country? If not, can he provide me with the figures later?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, he could if the noble Earl would give him time. He is absolutely kerfuffled with figures here. Perhaps, in view of the fact that we have a long day's business, I had better write to the noble Earl with that information.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, in his initial reply, the noble Earl said that 12 per cent. of the graduates in the period in question are out of work. Is not this really a most serious state of affairs? Will he be good enough to say what this represents in numerical terms? How many are science graduates; how many are arts graduates? Can he say specifically what steps are being taken by the Department of Education and Science to place these graduates so that they may make a productive contribution to the country's economy?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, again, I have reams of figures. I think that it would be more sensible if I wrote to the noble Lord with those answers.

Noble Lords


The Earl of Swinton

Right, my Lords, I shall start. Of first destinations, in 1982, permanent home employment accounted for 47 per cent., further education or training for 26 per cent., the number believed unemployed at 31st December for 13 per cent., and others for 14 per cent. In 1983, permanent home employment accounted for 51 per cent., further education or training for 25 per cent., the number believed unemployed at 31st December for 12 per cent., and others for 13 per cent. Of course, these figures are in themselves difficult. Included among those listed as unemployed, there may be some who should also be considered as "others". Obviously, there are foreign students and there are students such as young women who perhaps have had families while they are studying and have decided that they do not want to be employed. Of course, we are worried about the situation. That is why we are taking the measures to which I referred earlier.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware of the number of science and mathematics graduates who are leaving the teaching profession to go into industry? Is he aware that an acute problem is arising over how our young people are to be taught science and mathematics in the future?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, that is very wide of the original Question.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, it would perhaps be better if the noble Earl wrote to me and placed the letter in the Library so that we can have an explanation of the figures.

Lord Annan

My Lords, will the noble Earl agree that there are many occupations which graduates in other countries are happy to occupy? Is he aware that in the Bay area in California the best restaurants are run by graduates of the history department of the University of California?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I am glad to hear it. If ever I find myself over there, I shall make a point of eating in one of those restaurants.

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