Reply to ESRC Consultation on Industrial Relevance of Higher Degrees (1994)

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1 Collaborative Awards

The NPC considers the use of collaborative awards to be an excellent way of forming academic links with industry, and of funding students through a PhD. However, we have two main concerns. Firstly, from the student's point of view, it is no good having an industrial and academic supervisor who are going to disagree fundamentally over aspects of the research program. Before a student is accepted for such an award, there must be agreement between the two (or more) supervisors so that the student is not caught between conflicting ideas and methods.

Secondly, the question of how much control the non academic partner has over the research should be considered. With CASE awards it is often found that, for a relatively small amount of financial support, the company gets a complete stranglehold on the direction and type of research that is carried out. ESRC should seek to ensure that there is an acceptable compromise between academic and industrial interests.

Concerning student applicants, it is proposed that a Masters' degree will be essential. We would urge that ESRC does not make this a necessity for gaining a collaborative award, and that where a Masters' is desirable, there should be scope to fund more students through Masters courses.

2 Postgraduate Training Partnerships

The NPC would welcome the formation of Postgraduate training partnerships as outlined in the consultation letter. However, we would like to see further clarification on what the supervision arrangement would be, as this is not spelled out in any detail.

3 New Forms of Doctorate

The taught PhD would have to be aimed at a very different student than the traditional PhD by research. As we see it, this arrangement may only be suitable for those who have already had experience of research in industry. However, in keeping with the NPC's policy of having a diverse range of options for potential students, we welcome the idea.

The multi project PhD would place considerable pressure on a student who is unfamiliar with research techniques. Often, it is difficult to finish a PhD in one area within three years, let alone complete more two or three projects in this time. This type of PhD would again be more suitable for those who come back to university after several years work experience.

5 Masters Support

The NPC would welcome further support at masters level.