§ Lorna Fitzsimons
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made by the pilot scheme for research masters; and if she will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Battle
Four of the Research Councils have been supporting over two hundred students each year on research Masters or "MRes" courses on a pilot basis. This is the third year of the pilot, and there are currently some 235 students on over 30 courses.
Continued monitoring by the Research Councils indicates that many courses are proving very successful. Some others—for a variety of reasons—have not fared so well. Overall, the MRes continues to make good progress, with courses providing high-quality research training and the students positive about their experience. The development of the MRes is further proof of the ability of UK higher education institutions to provide innovative, high-quality education. I am placing a copy of the latest report from the Research Councils, together with a related press statement, in the Library.
Given the experience with the pilot and the need to subject all expenditure to periodic review, I have decided that the individual Research Councils should now be free to develop the MRes by reviewing and redefining their support. Reflecting the success to date, I would expect the level of the Councils' support for MRes studentships to continue at least to match the 1997 intake. The MRes must remain a self-standing degree, and its design, including a significant research component, should also be unchanged.
I believe that these guidelines will provide the necessary framework for the Councils and institutions to develop the MRes for the future. The Councils will continue to monitor the MRes to determine, over time, its role in preparing students for employment and for a PhD.