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Science and engineering teaching at English universities will receive a £400 million boost and a particular focus on encouraging women into these subjects, universities and science minister David Willetts announced on 30th September.

The package of support consists of:

  • A £200 million fund from Government which will be matched by universities on at least a one-to-one basis. This will boost our national university infrastructure and allow science and engineering departments to provide world class facilities and teaching for students. The competition for these funds will also act to support the aim of getting more women to take science and engineering at degree level by requiring evidence of a commitment to equality and diversity.
  • A partial relaxation of the current rules that prevent part-time students who have previously studied for a degree getting access to support for fees. The reversal means that anyone wishing to retrain part time in engineering, technology and computer science will now be able to get some tuition support.

Universities and science minister David Willetts said: “Investing in national infrastructure is a key part of this Government’s economic strategy. This new funding will provide world class, industry standard facilities and teaching for students. These facilities will also help bridge the gender gap that exists and give more incentives for women to retrain as engineers and put their skills to great use.

“We will also reverse the rules which stop people from getting financial support to retrain in engineering and technology part time. This will ensure the nation has the skills we need to ensure our businesses stay ahead in the global race.

“So we are inviting all who care about the future of science and engineering in our country to join us by signing up to this national ambition to increase the number of women entering science and engineering.”

The new £200 million fund will be administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and institutions will be invited to bid for funding against a set of criteria and priorities. With matched funding this will provide at least £400 million investment. The Government will expect HEFCE to look for evidence of commitment to equality and diversity in allocating the teaching capital funding, for example the HEI having an Athena SWAN award.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, said of the announcement: “If we are to remain competitive and achieve the most from our world leading science and engineering research and teaching base we have to ensure the best people are encouraged, supported and motivated. This commitment is a positive step to ensure far better access to higher education for women and those who have taken career breaks: a talent pool the UK cannot afford to ignore or disenfranchise.”

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