MAUNSELL AND Binnie Black & Veatch have joined Imperial College's geotechnical industrial bursary scheme, which funds students through masters courses.
Professor Richard Jardine, course leader for Imperial's suite of soil mechanics courses and the driving force behind the scheme, is also negotiating with US consultant Ardaman Associates. If he is successful, the company will be the first contributor to the scheme from outside the UK.
This year, Imperial has increased the annual participation fee from £2000 to £2500 and is set to generate £20,000 for the scheme. Its success demonstrates that industry is willing to some extent to pick up the cost of masters-level training.However, Imperial will have to increase membership considerably if it is to achieve its target of £50,000 by 2005 - equivalent to half of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's present grant, which will have been phased out by then.
The EPSRC last year announced its intention to stop direct studentships for masters courses in geotechnics, believing industry should be footing the bill for what it sees as essentially vocational training.
The EPSRC introduced five-year masters training packages to provide transitional funding (Talking Point, GE December 1999). These would provide money for the universities to distribute grants at their discretion - ie make a few fully-funded places available or part-fund a greater number of students.
Of the half dozen or so geotechnical university departments that previously benefited from EPSRC Studentships, only Imperial and Newcastle University received money under this scheme.
Imperial's total grant will allow an average of six 'fully-funded' EPSRC students a year over the next five years. Typically, Imperial's funded students have their course fees paid and receive about £11,000 tax free to cover living expenses.
Jardine said Imperial's industrial bursary scheme was important in the award of the masters training package - the EPSRC made it clear in the bidding process that departments that could demonstrate close industry links would be favoured.
He added that companies were realising the contacts they made with the College through the bursary scheme were highly beneficial and greatly improved their access to the cream of young geotechnical engineers, many of whom would be looking for employment at the end of their studies.
Another development is the informal contribution of Earth Science Systems, by providing staff and equipment for a field geophysics course.
Matthew Coop moves to Imperial College from City University next month. One of his responsibilities will be to help set up new stress path teaching facilities.