Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Free doesn’t mean cheap

In Comment, Funding on 2010/12/23 at 12:12 pm

The turmoil provoked by the tight vote result on the raise of the university tuition fees in England this past few weeks finds its antithesis in the clear message coming from Scotland’s Universities. We do not want the English model. Professor King, convener of Universities Scotland made an statement that most of us working in Higher Education Institutions share: “the ability to pay must not become what determines whether someone goes to University in Scotland or not”. Two options seem to outstand in this case, both of them with inherent advantages and disadvantages for the different stakeholders: on the one hand, 100% public funding for tuition fees, on the other, the ‘subsidised degrees’ formula, in which public funding is topped-up with graduate contributions. In the meantime that Scottish Government decides how to maintain student places and also keeps our Universities competitive in research in the UK and worldwide, a concurrent debate is open within Universities: how will we manage to keep offering our current and prospective students the quality of experience they deserve with a decimated funding stream from Government.

In a highly competitive jobs market, Universities and Higher Education Institutions have a large share of responsibility in ensuring that our graduating students are equipped with the skills and experiences to support their chances of securing employment upon graduation. In Heriot-Watt University we are aware of the necessity to have transferable and lifelong learning skills in addition to in-depth factual knowledge of the different subject areas. Being entrepreneurial ourselves, there is an emphasis on active participation and innovative problem solving that we transmit to our students. Practical applications, learning by doing; enterprising students who interact with companies as early as during their undergraduate degrees and are exposed to work in industry from early on. In all of this we believe, as these are essential when a newly graduate tries to position herself in the competitive market place. We want to continue doing this, and to encourage enrolment of motivated and ambitious students from all social backgrounds. Although this will certainly become tougher with less funding and less resources, we all (i.e. lecturers, researchers, students, admin personnel) must continue delivering the same excellence that Sottish Universities are renown for.

Students coming to study in Scotland have to be aware that ‘free’ (or quasi-free) does not mean cheap, and consequently make the most of the opportunity that they are given, valuing it as much as if they were paying £9k from their own pockets.

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