Minister seeks to protect courses linked with economy’s future success

Education and skills secretary, Charles Clarke, has written to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) seeking advice on how to protect higher education courses of national strategic importance.

Clarke has submitted a list of courses that the Government believes are crucial to creating the skills that will ensure the future success of the British 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.

“Specification of these particular subjects does not mean that they are more important than others,” Clarke said. “But they have been pinpointed because there are particular concerns that we may not be able to produce enough graduates in these fields in the future, and have them provided for in enough regions across the country.”

The secretary of state has asked the HEFCE to consider the following as courses of national strategic importance:

– Arabic and Turkish language studies and other Middle Eastern area studies; former Soviet Union Caucasus and central Asian area studies: this is mainly for strategic security and inter-cultural awareness reasons, as highlighted by the recent British Society for Middle East Studies Report

– Japanese, Chinese, Mandarin and other far-eastern languages and area studies: for business and trade purposes, as highlighted by, among others, the UK-Japan 21st Century Group

– Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: chiefly for maintaining the UK’s excellent science base and ensuring its national productivity

– Vocationally oriented courses of particular interest to employers in industries that are of growing importance to the UK economy – for example, cultural and creative industries, and e-skills

– Courses relating to recent EU accession countries, especially those in Eastern Europe and the Baltic.

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