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Director of Engineering at IME responds to UK spending review

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Dr Colin Brown, has responded to the UK government’s spending review. “Although some of the proposals in today’s spending review are encouraging, the cuts and efficiency savings earmarked for transport, energy and healthcare are worrying. It was also worrying that in [the entirety of] his [George Osbourne’s] speech there was not one mention of the word ‘engineering’. It is only by the application of science and engineering that we will achieve the efficiency savings the government is aiming for. If not managed carefully the proposed changes to turn more schools into academies will hamper our ability to produce enough people with science engineering technology and maths skills.”

Energy and Environment
“The government has earmarked UK£1 billion efficiency savings to be made to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, at a time when nuclear decommissioning is more important than ever. While it is important that we focus on ways of generating clean, reliable electricity and plans for a new reactor at Hinkley point care welcome, the government needs to encourage more investment into the whole nuclear lifecycle. We haven’t yet found a way of dealing with the large stockpile of nuclear waste at Sellafield, which is set to include an estimated 140 t of plutonium by 2020. Long term deep geological disposal could be a solution, but about 20 years of testing is required for this approach to be used. Although the government has increased DECC’s innovation programme spending, it should also prioritise proper research and development into methods for recycling and maximising the energy returns from our existing nuclear waste.”

“The commitment to the Shale Wealth Fund provides some guidance as to where additional UK gas is expected to come from. Supporting the development of more gas power plants, however without local authority and community buy in environmentally as well as economically to regional shale gas production, this is unlikely to help the UK meet the demand for electricity following the closure of coal fired power stations”.

“While the replacement of maintenance grants with loans for the least affluent students may well expand access to higher education for some, students from the poorest backgrounds will see this loan as a debt. However we welcome the extension of maintenance loans to part time students since this will encourage a range of routes into study from more diverse backgrounds and circumstances.“We welcome securing launch funding to create a new university in Hereford, focussing on engineering. The new model in technology and engineering approach supports the institution’s ambition to increase the appeal of engineering and technology to young people not traditionally served by the sector.

“The stated intention to continue to increase academy status of more schools and remove local authority involvement will mean that decisions and provision of professional training and updating of teachers will increasingly fall on the academies, free schools and studio schools. The supply of engineers and other STEM graduates is intrinsically linked with the quality, confidence and up to date expertise of their teachers. Good STEM teaching relies on committed and enthused teachers who continue to grow professionally through lifelong professional learning opportunities. Structures and resources for teachers continuing professional development must be protected as individual schools become increasingly autonomous.”

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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