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Skills shortage fears to be taken to Government


CONCERNS ABOUT a perceived civil engineering skills shortage arising from a drop in entrants to universities will be represented to Government this autumn, NCE has learned.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has started to analyse responses from universities to its circular letter - 'Recruitment to Engineering' - sent out to gauge why applications to engineering courses are in decline. The letter pointed to a 33% drop in entry to civil engineering courses from 1994 to 1998 (NCE last week).

The funding agency, which performs an advisory role to Government on higher education issues, will report to the Department for Education and Employment in the autumn on whether any 'sector-wide' action should be taken to counter the apparent decline in applications.

'We want to be happy that the overall provision for engineering is in line with national needs,' said an HEFC spokesman.

The HEFC has so far received 'mixed messages' from universities. Some said they were massively restructuring engineering courses to counter the decline, but others are reporting a considerable increase in applicants to engineering. They have until the end of this month to make their responses.

ICE chairman of professional development Mark Whitby denied that the figures used by HEFC, which came from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS), pointed to a skills shortage in the civil engineering industry. 'The figures do not take into account the recent trend of engineering courses being combined with other disciplines. There is actually a lack of proper data on the subject.'

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