Letter: Britain needs a bridge between science and art

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bryan Appleyard suggests, somewhat obliquely, that we need more people such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel ('We can think. Now we must do', 26 May). I agree, we do, but why, having introduced Brunel so early in his article, does he go on to talk at such length about science? Surely, Brunel was an engineer; is Mr Appleyard an adherent to that destructive British belief that engineers are little more than degraded scientists?

Our long technological decline is largely due to our failure to appreciate engineering. We have had a desperate need for good engineers for at least 50 years, but our education system does not allow them to be


Engineers should be creators. This is the essence of engineering; this is what Brunel did. Scientists discover things, engineers create things. But our schools impede the emergence of great engineers, and the core of the problem is the A-level exam.

Early in their school careers, pupils have to choose between science and arts. The analysts, the mathematicians, go for science; the creative people head for arts. By 18 and university entrance, we have creative people who lack the necessary maths to enter engineering courses, and people with A-levels in maths and physics who lack the required creativity to excel as engineers. No wonder British industry is disappearing so fast.

The solution? Well, the first step is to abolish A-levels and replace them with a six-subject system that allows maths and physics and creativity to stay together.

Yours faithfully,


Department of Civil Engineering

Loughborough University

of Technology

Loughborough, Leicestershire

28 May

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