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Shadow minister attacks cuts to PhD studentships

The axing of more than 1000 PhD studentships will have a “devastating” impact on UK research, Gareth Thomas, Labour MP and shadow minister of science and universities, said on 27 July.

The statement follows the release of a table in parliament by the science and universities minister, David Willetts, outlining the number of studentships that the research councils have funded in the past three years and is planning on funding in the next three.

The figures, given in answer to a question by Thomas on 11 July, show that the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will reduce the number of PhDs it funds from 2,902 in 2010-11 to 1,900 in 2011-12, a drop of 35 per cent.

The number of studentships funded by the Economic and Social Research Council will fall from 730 to 660 in the same period.

The corresponding drop for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is from 555 places in 2010-11 to 530 in 2011-12 and to 430 places in 2013-14.

In his 27 July statement, Thomas said, “These cuts in PhD and Masters places will have a devastating and profound impact on the range, depth and quality of advanced research, innovation and study taking place in Britain’s universities.

“These cuts are a direct result of the Government making the wrong choices on university and science funding and will mean the brightest and best will be tempted to go abroad just when we need their groundbreaking research to help foster innovation and fund new economic growth,” he added.