'I'm Not a Protectionist about Knowledge or Higher Education, but I Just Wonder What It Says about Our Society That We Are Happy to See That Drain of Talent of Young Men and Women That Would Create the Legacy for Our Society.' EX-HONG KONG GOVERNOR ON OXFORD, CHINA AND THE BBC
Byline: SION BARRY Business Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
CHAIRMAN of the BBC Trust and Chancellor of Oxford University Lord Patten of Barnes described the UK's higher education sector as a great "national institution," but stressed it needed greater financial support.
Addressing a meeting of Cardiff Business Club, Lord Patten, a former chairman of the Conservative Party and the last UK governor of Hong Kong, said that despite a perception to the contrary the US taxpayer makes a greater contribution to its higher education sector than in the UK.
Speaking at St David's Hotel, Lord Patten said: "People do say to me you [Oxford} are a Government agency and you are part of the state... would you be happy if you were 'independent and private like an Ivy League university'?" "The truth is if you look at our research income then only 40% comes from the Government. At Harvard 80% of its research income comes from the Government."
Lord Patten, a former UK member of the European Commission, added: "People very often argue that we shouldn't compare ourselves with the USA, which has 42 of the 50 greatest universities in the world attracting some of the best and the brightest, because after all they have these private endowments and private contributions.
"However, the truth is that the American taxpayer gives a higher proportion of GDP to higher education than we do in this country.
"So what is the priority that we give to our universities and research and development?" He said in most speeches of more than 25 minutes - given by Government ministers, regardless of party - the importance of research and development and the knowledge economy were always cited as being vital for economic growth. He added: "So why don't we put our money where are mouths are?" He said that this year in the US 75% of science PhDs would be written by foreign students, who overwhelmingly stay afterwards.
He said that half of new start-ups in Silicon Valley involved first-generation immigrants or foreign graduates. Lord Patten said that European Research Council research showed that in the mid 1990s 50% of young men and women had gone to America for a PhD, but had returned back to Europe and the UK.
He added: "The year we produced our report [a decade later] 25% came back and I wonder what the figure is today.
"I am not a protectionist about knowledge or higher education, but I just wonder what it says about our society that we are happy to see that drain of talent of young men and women that would create the legacy for our society. It doesn't seem to me to be a very good way of building for the future, which we hope would be rather better than flat-line growth."
Lord Patten said that when he attended Oxford in 1962, only 6% of his age group went to university, while today it is around 43%.
He added: "We have afforded it by squeezing the amount of money that supports every student.
"In the last 20 years of the 20th century we doubled the number of students, but had halved the level of support per student; there is an extraordinary symmetry between those two figures.
"We are now spending much less than most of our competitors.
At Oxford we cope very largely because of the size of our research income which is the largest in Europe and because of the scale of the endowments which we have and which we are raising.
"Since I became chancellor we have raised PS1.4bn, including most recently PS75m from Mike Moritz whose father was a professor of classics at Cardiff University and part of the central European Jewish diaspora which was helped to come to the UK. Mike and his wife are trying to repay that debt by an extraordinary contribution to Oxford to raise PS300m to ensure that the poorest students can come to Oxford for nothing... it is an extraordinary gift."
Like the higher education sector he described the BBC as another example of a "great national institution" that he believes needs to be valued and cherished more. …