The 7 October edition of Local Transport Today (LTT) contains a two page article, and a leader, concerning the state of post-graduate transport planning degrees at UK Universities. It is no surprise to learn that UK students are thin on the ground at the moment. Fortunately applications from overseas candidates have so-far filled the vacuum.
LTT points out that the low number of UK applicants is due to the following factors:
- withdrawal of fudning from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- poor employment prospects
- shortage of employer funding
- the debt burden carried by many young students.
Commentators from the academic sector suggest that there is a cyclical pattern in the demand for places on UK courses. However, the present situation must be the worst in living memory. Imperial College and IT Leeds, which have excellent international reputations, are confident that they can continue to attract applicants from all over the world. However, if students are coming from China and India, it is doubtful whether they will wish to enter our employment market when the prospects at home are fairly good.
I applaud LTT for raising these issues, but the profession as a whole needs to raise its voice about the current situation. If we don’t speak-up now, we can’t complain when we emerge from this downturn and find that there is a shortage of skilled UK-based professionals.
Perhaps there ought to be explicit recognition of post-graduate qualifications in salary packages. This would provide at least some incentive for people in the industry to seek to obtain a more rounded knowledge of transport planning and policy.