PESGB July 2010

Thu 01 July 2010

Category: Magazines

  • Tenby Field Trip Review
  • Climate Change
  • North Sea Course Review
  • DEVEX Review
  • PESGB Young Professionals
  • Eastern Mediterannean

Plus much more inside

President’s Page- Henry Allen

Last weekend I went back to Edinburgh University to join in with a retirement celebration for one of the great lecturers who had taught me in the early 70s. He was one of a young team of very dynamic and inspirational people who, obviously with some changes and excellent additions, have continued to this day and maintained an excellent reputation for Edinburgh as a teaching department as well as research. The event reminded me again of the huge impact that those people have had on their students and to muse on the sheer quality of people that have gone on into all walks of life including most definitely the oil industry, to become highly valued contributors.
But the continuation of that it seems, is under threat and I wonder how widespread elsewhere in the UK this is also the case as we enter a period of austerity and cost-cutting? I have learned that although funding for university teaching versus research is split, it is primarily through measures on research that the quality of a department or “school” is assessed. I also see that funding for research is skewed towards whatever is flavour-of-the-month, which at the moment tends to be climate-related science. This generates a staffing bias which can be to the detriment of teaching a solid all-round geology degree. And I hear comments that today’s undergraduates often seem to emerge lacking the “old-fashioned” skills of a well-rounded geologist who has learnt by being plonked many times into “the field” to use all their skills from observing the hillside, to digging around in the ditch, looking down the microscope, and using this patchy data to put together a four-dimensional picture of what rocks are distributed in the sub-surface and how they got there. One of the reasons, it is suggested, is the commonly operated “cafeteria system” allowing students to cherry pick what they want to learn, rather than being more guided by a strong teaching vision from the department. It came to light a couple of weeks ago that the University of Keele are planning to suspend their Geology Teacher Training course. And I have also just learnt that Higher Geology in Scotland is under threat. On the more specialist side we have lost the Micropalaeontology MSc course at UCL and it seems, the Natural History Museum are axing their Micropalaeontology Research Group. Now how exactly is the oil & gas industry going to function in the future without new blood coming into the game to tell us how old the rocks are and what has been going on in the palaeoenvironment?
Is all this the tip of the iceberg? Is our Nation losing sight of the importance of geoscience education to its own wellbeing? Inspirational teaching is the starting point of inspirational leadership which in turn results in great things. Are we losing the plot, and as key recipients in the oil & gas industry is this not very important to us?

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