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An Audit of Practical Work undertaken by undergraduate bioscience students across the UK higher education sector, has found that the majority of university staff have grave concerns that further erosion of resources would have significant effects on the UK biosciences graduate skills base.

The Audit, launched today at the annual Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) Winter Meeting at the Society of Biology, was completed over 2013 and 2014 through collaboration of the Biochemical Society, Society of Biology and the Higher Education Academy.

The Audit suggests that although staff are generally happy with the level of practical work available, they are keen that funding for practical resources is maintained at current levels.

Biochemical Society Policy Committee Chair David Fell (Oxford Brookes University) said: “Practical experience is a hugely important component of undergraduate education and this audit demonstrates the strong value that is placed on it within academia.

“While the results are largely positive, concerns that increasing student numbers and limited resources will put pressure on practical training should be taken seriously. I hope that this audit will reinforce the need to at least maintain the current levels of practical experience, and we intend to repeat the exercise in the future to ensure that this is happening."

The Audit also found that there is a lack of school preparation for higher education practical work. There is a further concern that staff who invest time in teaching activities and laboratory provision potentially experience detrimental effects on their research and hence promotion prospects. It is therefore important that the balance between teaching and research within HE is addressed.

HUBS is a Special Interest Group of the Society of Biology and contributes to national debates on priorities in the biosciences. The Society’s higher education policy work is informed by the upwards of 3,000 academic specialists within HUBS members' academic departments.

The theme of today’s meeting is Higher Education 2015 and beyond: Funding, Opportunities & Challenges. Speakers will discuss the future of Higher Education, the challenges that it faces going forward and the impact this may have on research and training.

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