The Royal Academy of Engineering welcomes today’s report by the Royal Society highlighting the shortage of PhD students in science and engineering. The Academy voiced its own concerns about the situation in engineering as early as 2002, reporting that “New engineering graduates, faced with a choice between low academic pay and the far higher starting salaries available in industry and commerce, understandably choose the latter.”

Commenting on today’s report, A Higher Degree of Concern, Professor Julia King, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, says:

“I welcome the Royal Society’s emphasis on both the importance of stronger employer engagement in higher level learning and research training for the UK’s engineers and scientists and also on the important contribution which our overseas students make to the health of science and engineering in this country. I would be concerned about any increase in the time required to gain qualifications, such as moving to eight years from entering university to obtaining a PhD. However, I am pleased to see the focus on output standards and achievement with increased flexibility in the approach to and length of higher degree training.”

Professor King, who is Vice Chancellor of Aston University, chaired The Royal Academy of Engineering’s report Educating Engineers for the 21st Century, published in June 2007, for which the Academy surveyed over 400 companies and 81 UK universities. They were unanimous that university engineering courses need redesigning for the modern economy, that industry requires many more engineers and that funding per university engineering student needs to increase by 50 to 80 per cent.

International developments make the situations serious – mature economies like the UK must now compete with those of rapidly developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. On current projections the combined GDPs of these nations will overtake those of the US, UK, Germany, Japan, France and Italy by 2040. The developing nations are producing record numbers of graduate engineers to fuel their technological and economic development – China and India produce half a million engineering graduates every year.

Notes for editors

  1. The Academy’s report Educating Engineers for the 21st Century was published in June 2007 and is available at:
    News release: Knowledge economy under threat without more engineers
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636