Our friends in academia
Industries that wanted to poach university talent now prefer to build partnerships, says Stephen Pritchard
Thursday 21 March 1996
Years of falling pay and less time for research because of increasing numbers of students to teach drives many lecturers into the waiting arms of big business, depleting the stock of academic experience in the universities. But some sectors of industry believe that an exodus of academics, especially the younger, brighter minds, poses serious threats to their recruitment plans, and are now paying people to stay in universities. The poacher truly turned gamekeeper.
Some businesses believe that if the best staff leave the universities, the quality of teaching available to undergraduates will fall and, ultimately, this will cost them money.
Esso and ICI are offering fellowships to academics in chemical engineering. Both are recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The companies pay awards, around pounds 6,000 in the first year, with declining amounts for four more years, in return for some of the academics' time in consultancy.
The schemes are intended as a partnership. The academics are less likely to be tempted away from university, and have more time to devote to their research. The companies build stronger relationships with the universities, and, in the fellows, have friendly faces in the faculties who can steer graduates in the companies' direction.
ICI introduced its fellowship, now run jointly with Zeneca, for young chemical engineers in 1989. Dr David Parker, who is responsible for the company's relations with the university sector, says there is a particular problem in chemical engineering, where good graduates can attract far greater salaries than their academic peers.
Dr Parker describes the objectives of the scheme as "assisting the UK engineering industry by promoting the recruitment and retention of the best young faculty members".
For ICI, there was more than one benefit to the scheme. "It was seen to be the sort of thing we should be doing anyway, to promote good relations, but there was also a realisation that chemical engineering was likely to atrophy because of a lack of young lecturers," Dr Parker explains.
Esso sees its scheme on similar lines, although it places more emphasis on teaching, while ICI looks more towards research. The company believes that the scheme gives valuable recognition to fellows, who have to compete for places, says its public affairs officer, Martin Tims.
Academics who have received awards feel that they have benefited, without being asked for onerous commitments of time by their sponsors.
Dr David Faraday, who holds an Esso award at Surrey University, believes one reason he was selected was his work in building transferable skills into undergraduate degrees. He had previously worked with Esso arranging industrial placements for his students.
"My contacts in the company were saying that I was the sort of person they wanted to stay in academia," Dr Faraday recalls. "It is not wonderfully paid, and the temptation is always there to go into industry."
The fellowship makes a difference, but it has also given him a closer relationship with industry. This makes it easier to ensure that what he teaches reflects the skills his students will need when they graduate.
There are academic benefits, too. "There are opportunities for me to develop research links, and, hopefully, I will be able to pass on my knowledge to people in the company. It's a two-way process," he says.
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...
£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...
£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...