Education and skills secretary, Charles Clarke, is seeking advice on how to protect higher education courses of national strategic importance, such as languages and science.
Clarke has written to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) for advice, and has submitted a list of courses that the Government believes are crucial to the future success of the UK economy.
He has asked HEFCE to report back on whether intervention is necessary to ensure the take-up any of these subjects and, if so, to offer advice on what intervention might be necessary, and the types of intervention that could be considered.
“Any sensible government needs to take a long-term view of what our students are studying and whether we have enough graduates in the subjects needed to help our economy and society thrive,” he said.
Among the list of courses are: Arabic and Turkish language studies; former Soviet Union Caucasus and central Asian area studies; Japanese, Chinese, Mandarin and other Far-Eastern languages; and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Manufacturers’ organisation, the EEF, has given strong support to the plan. Its director general, Martin Temple, said emerging nations such as China were ploughing huge resources into producing high-quality science and engineering degrees.
He said: “To do the same in the UK is not special pleading but a recognition of the reality of the competitive world in which we operate. If we are to maintain and enhance our competitive edge as a modern, innovative high-value economy, then we must ensure that the quality of science and engineering in the UK remains second to none.”