United Kingdom

Traditionally, only about 15 percent of U.K. students continued the "Sixth Form" (upper-level of senior high school) which prepared them to enter higher education after "A level" examinations (secondary school examinations for entry to the university). The "Fifth Form" (standard schooling) ends at grade 11. Many students opted out of continuing their education because upper-level high school, for 16- to 18-year-olds, required declaring a major field and total emersion in that coursework (Masters, 1994) [32] . The 1988 Educational Reform Act introduced a National Curriculum to provide the academic background for more students to continue in school past 16 years of age, with increased options to study science, and subsequently enter the university (Gov. of U.K., 1994b). Recently, the U.K. higher education system has allowed non-traditional entry qualifications in engineering, substituting technical coursework for A-level examinations. These educational reforms were based on the Government's desire to raise access to higher education to be more in line with other Western European countries (Wilson, 1991). These reforms contributed to expansion of university enrollments, increasing from 15 percent to 35 percent of all 18- to 19-year-olds in the 5-year period 1988ñ1993. In addition, adults are returning for higher education (Gov. of U.K., 1994a).


Oxford, founded late in the 12th century, and Cambridge, founded in the early 13th century, were the first universities in what is now the United Kingdom, and among the oldest in Europe. By the end of the 15th century, there were five universities in the United Kingdom, including St. Andrews (1411), Glasgow (1494), and Aberdeen (1494). It was at Trinity College, Cambridge, that Sir Isaac Newton invented the differential calculus and, in 1687, published his monumental Principia Mathematica, which enunciated his three general laws of motion and his law of gravitation which, taken together, described and predicted precisely the motion of all objects in the solar system. Newton was among the first members of the Royal Society of London, chartered in 1660, the world's oldest scientific society in continuous existence.Until recently, higher education institutions in England and Wales divided into three sectors: universities, polytechnics, and colleges. Most provide 3-year degrees (following a 13-year elementary and secondary program), although NS&E fields are usually longer. The universities validate and award their own degrees. In the polytechnics and colleges, degrees are validated by an external body, the Council for National Academic Awards. The universities are the longest established of the three sectors. Colleges were founded in the late 19th century for training personnel for local employers. Thirty polytechnics were created in the 1960s to widen access to higher education to groups traditionally underrepresented. They were to have a vocational focus, but the course offerings of the polytechnics have gradually become similar to those of universities. In 1992, most polytechnics attained university status [33] (Gov. of U.K., 1994c).

The 46 existing universities retained their role as prime providers of research and still account for the large majority of natural science degrees [34] . Only about half of the engineering and computer science degrees, however, are obtained in universities; the other half are obtained in polytechnics and specialized colleges (Tarsh, 1992). Women make up half of the student enrollments in higher education in all institutions. The massive expansion of higher education has not led to similar expansion of hiring permanent Ph.D. faculty, although there was a big expansion of short-term contract for research assistants. The ratio of students to professors has greatly increased in the past 10 years, resulting in more teaching assistants and doctoral students teaching courses (Jagger, 1994).

Science and Engineering Degree Trends

Half of the first university degrees in 1992 were awarded by universities, 45 percent by polytechnics, and 5 percent from open universities (Gov. of U.K., 1994c). Time series data (1975-1991) are shown for traditional universities only. (See figure 21.) The U.K college-age population started to decline in 1981 (World Bank, 1993). A few years later, the number of engineering degrees began to decline. Unlike the United States, however, absolute numbers of combined natural science and engineering degrees did not continue to decline. The number of engineering degrees has remained relatively stable since 1987. Natural and social science degrees fluctuated during the period 1975 to 1992, agricultural sciences degrees remained flat and math and computer science degrees increased. (See figure 21.)

Over half of total university degrees awarded in the United Kingdom in 1991 were in S&E fields, almost a quarter in natural sciences alone. (See appendix table 2.) Only about 10 percent of the college-age cohort obtained a university degree in 1991. Participation rates increased to 20.8 percent in 1992 with inclusion of degree data from colleges and polytechnics in the U.K. university system. (See appendix table 1.)

The number of doctoral degrees in fields of science and engineering did not increase as fast as overall doctoral degrees. Doctoral degrees in all fields grew 2.7 percent annually from 1975 to 1992. The number of natural science degrees grew slightly less: 2.3 percent over this same time period, from 2,000 degrees in 1975 to 3,000 degrees in 1992. The number of engineering degrees grew more slowly: 1.3 percent from 1975 to 1992, from 1,000 to 1,300 degrees. (See figure 22.) Women represent 27 percent of the natural science degrees and 11 percent of the engineering degrees at the doctoral level (Gov. of U.K., 1993; Sutherland, 1994). (See appendix table 19.)

Traditionally, national laboratories have played an important role in supervising graduate research. This persists in Belgium and France, but has declined dramatically in the United Kingdom (Healey, 1994c).

Foreign Students

The United Kingdom has a long tradition of training students from the Empire and former British colonies. In 1992, the number of foreign students enrolled full time in U.K. universities reached 93,000, out of 934,000 total full-time students in higher education. About 45,800 were studying for a first university degree, representing about 6.7 percent of the 687,000 undergraduates in the United Kingdom. About 32,000 were studying at the graduate level, representing 31.2 percent of the 102,500 graduate students. These percentages of foreign students at the graduate and undergraduate level have not changed significantly in the past 10 years (Gov. of U.K., 1994c). Recently, however, a larger proportion of foreign students in the United Kingdom are from EU countries. In 1992, 27,675 students from Germany, Ireland, France, and Greece were studying in the United Kingdom, representing about one-third of all foreign students.

Research and Development

In 1992, the U.K. government established a new cabinet secretary to improve the handling of S&T policy and created the Office of Science and Technology (OST). This office is responsible for the science budget of the Research Councils and the block grants to the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering. This reform of science policy structure and funding is intended to build closer and more systematic partnerships among researchers, government, and industry. In addition, in 1994, OST began publishing a Forward Look of Government Funded Science, Engineering, and Technology, giving an assessment of the portfolio of publicly funded research best suited to the broader S&T needs of the country [35] . The

United Kingdom had a 1993 GDP of $796 billion and invested about $17.7 billion, or 2.2 percent of GDP in total R&D. Industry financed about 50 percent of total R&D. Throughout the 1980s, the U.K. government has been determined to secure greater industry funding of R&D and has succeeded. Industry support of overall R&D increased from 38 percent in 1975 to 52 percent in 1993. The government reversed positions with industry, decreasing its support of overall R&D from 54 percent in 1975 to 32 percent in 1993. Industry also increased its share of the performance from 1975 to 1993, from 58 to 62 percent of all research conducted in the United Kingdom. Government performance of total research decreased from 25 percent in 1975 to 14 percent in 1992.

Overall R&D expenditures in the United Kingdom grew at an annual rate of 2.6 percent throughout the 1980s and have since leveled off and slightly declined. (See figure 23.) This is the same pattern for all major European countries: great growth in the 1980s, and a pause in the 1990s to assess the benefits of this investment. Some of the decline of government R&D in the United Kingdom in the 1990s was due to budget cuts in the military and civilian departments. In 1992, the Ministry of Defense research funds were decreased to 42 percent of government R&D, from 55 percent of overall government R&D funding 5 years prior. Defense research funding is projected to continue to decrease by 15 percent in real terms between 1993 and 1996. The Ministry of Defense R&D is now in the Defense Research Agency; like Advanced Research Projects Agency, it is semi-privatized and expected to receive contract research. The number of S&E personnel was decreased, as reported in the outlook report (Gov. of U.K., 1994d).

The government also cut civilian research in government departments. For example, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had been funding collaboration schemes for industrial innovation through four major programs: LINK, EUREKA, advanced technology, and general industry programs. LINK is a program for pre-competitive research between industry, academia, and multiple government departments. EUREKA [36] promotes industry to develop advanced technology for commercial success within the European market. Under general industrial collaborative projects, DTI supports research and technology organizations that specifically encourage small- and medium-sized enterprises to participate. With cuts in government spending for R&D, DTI has decreased aid for small and medium industry, and the Department of Agriculture eliminated its near-market research. Further, the government drastically cut the Department of Energy funding of the fast breeder reactor research and subsumed the Department of Energy under DTI. The U.K. Atomic Energy Authority is now a public corporation (Gov. of U.K., 1994d).

The United Kingdom has privatized some national non-defense laboratories, which have moved from more basic, long-term research to more commercial short-term activities. National laboratories in Europe are an important, but declining, employer of scientists and engineers. U.K. laboratories have the steepest decline in employment, with very little mobility of scientists and engineers. France and Belgium are achieving some renewal of S&E personnel in their stable national laboratories through the use of graduate students as an integral element in the research organization (Smith, 1994).

Government funding of university research by the Research Councils and the Higher Education Funding Council has been maintained despite shrinking annual government R&D budgets. It now represents 35 percent of government support of R&D, approximately $2 billion (Gov. of U.K., 1994d). The six Research Councils, such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council, have established nine interdisciplinary programs through large grants to academic research centers for strategic research to provide post-graduate training. These strategic research centers are tied to industry-supported technology, such as optics and lasers. However, the recent downsizing of U.K. industrial research has limited the opportunities for U.K. industry to work with universities. While government performance of research was reduced by almost 1 percent annually between 1975 and 1992, university performance of research increased more than 3 percent annually during this same period. U.K. universities now perform approximately 16 percent of total R&D, similar to the percentages for university performed research in France, Germany, and the United States. (See appendix table 10.)

About 5 percent of the Research Council's $2 billion 1995 budget has been earmarked for a set of priority initiatives in applied research defined by the government. These include the Human Genome Project ($6.2 million), bioprocessing, wealth-creating products from plants, and several other research areas that would enhance the country's economy (O'Brien, 1995). U.K. scientists have been particularly active in the Human Genome Project. The Director of the Genetics laboratory at Cambridge has proposed jointly with an American geneticist-the director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis-a way to quicken the pace of large-scale DNA sequencing. With the benefit of several laboratories working in tandem, they propose to cover the entire human genome in 5 years and lower the entire bill for biomedical research (Marshall, 1995). The number of research scientists and engineers (RSEs) also expanded in the 1980s and contracted in the 1990s. RSEs increased from 79,000 in 1975 to 130,000 in 1989, representing a 3.6-percent growth rate during this period. (See appendix table 12.) The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in the EU that has decreased the number of full-time employed RSEs in the 1990s, while increasing temporary or contract work. In addition, U.K. scientists are less well-paid on average than their European counterparts (Healey, 1994b). Business enterprises, Research Councils, and government departments have all decreased their numbers of scientists and engineers engaged in research in the past 6 years. These reductions have been a factor leading to departures of British RSEs to the United States and other parts of Europe (NSF, 1995a). Only U.K. higher education institutions have hired new RSEs in this period.

The United Kingdom is very active in international collaborations in the Airbus, the European Space Agency, and CERN. The United Kingdom is also heavily involved in the Framework Programs that aim to strengthen the underlying S&T basis of European industry as a worldwide competitor, such as IT, RACE, AIM, and BRITE [37] . Four percent of U.K. government R&D expenditures went to the support of the European Community (EC) Framework Programs. A growing fraction of the U.K. R&D budget is supported by the EC international cooperative science program (EC, 1994b). "Foreign" sources of support for total R&D grew from 2 percent to 12 percent in the 1980s. To secure external research funds, U.K. universities are collaborating in EU programs with industrial partners from other countries for pre-competitive research (Healey, 1994d).

[32] This applies to England and Wales; Scotland's system is different.

[33] The Further and Higher Education Act of 1992.

[34] British university education in the natural sciences is still considered by many to be among the strongest in Europe.

[35] OST is no longer a cabinet office and is now under the Department of Trade and Industry, which has responsibility for the S&T budget.

[36] EUREKA is a pan-European initiative to facilitate collaborative R&D between European companies and research organizations.

[37] Information Technologies (IT); Advanced Communication Technology (RACE); Advanced Informatics in Medicine (AIM); and Industrial Technology and Advanced Materials (BRITE).