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Comment: Re:Worker shortage in 2014 (Score 1) 321

by ngibbins (#46148101) Attached to: James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering

That's broadly the case, but there are a few subtle differences. A three year bachelors degree is typically 180 ECTS credits (ECTS being the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System), and a postgraduate masters is typically 90 ECTS credits (in the UK at least - in some European countries, 120 ECTS credit masters are the norm). A four year undergraduate masters is considered to be a part of the 1st cycle (in Bologna Process terms), and is typically 240 ECTS credits, some 30-60 ECTS short of a bachelors plus a postgraduate masters.

Putting it a different way, we expect our MSc students to work over the summer (carrying out their dissertation projects, submitted in late September), whereas our MEng students finish with their final exams in June of their final year.

Regarding fees, at my place in 2013-14 the tuition fees for an MSc degree were set at £5,500 per year for a UK student studying a non-laboratory subject, which is considerably less than the £9,000 that you'd pay for each year of an undergraduate degree. Of course, the £9k tuition fees are paid upfront by a government-backed loan which may be written off after 25 years, whereas the main funding for postgraduate masters is through career development loans, which typically impose much harsher terms.

Comment: Re:Worker shortage in 2014 (Score 4, Informative) 321

by ngibbins (#46140895) Attached to: James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering
Dyson's talking about the UK, where over the last decade and a half we've moved from a higher education system funded from general taxation, to one in which teaching is funded almost entirely through tuition fees. A student studying for a four-year undergraduate masters (typical for engineering subjects in the UK) now faces a debt of £36,000 (US$60,000) for their tuition alone; living expenses (rent, food) will typically add upwards of £20,000 to the overal cost. By contrast, when I graduated with BSc Computer Science in 1994, I did so without debt; my tuition and living expenses were paid for by my local education authority, as was then the norm. As a result, we're seeing a decline in admissions across science engineering as a whole, and a very pronounced shift from four year MEng degrees to three year BSc/BEng. The decline varies from discipline to discipline; computer science so far seems to have got off quite lightly, but others have been hit much harder (materials science, for example). It's very touching that you believe that the invisible hand is going to make everything better, but the reality is that any correction in engineering salaries is likely to take decades (if not longer), and the shortage of STEM graduates is rather more immediate. Dyson's arguments are sensible, and effectively take us back to the situation of the early 90s: tuition fees would be paid by the state. He also makes reference to the decline of the post-study work permit system that used to exist in the UK; it used to be the case that overseas students at UK universities would get a two year work permit. This was a boon for UK engineering employers - I've employed several such graduates on my projects. The decisions made by the current UK government (and to a lesser extent to the previous Labour government, for they introduced tuition fees, albeit at a lower level) have been harmful to both UK higher education and to UK science and engineering. (an explanatory note to the above: I'm a lecturer (US professor) at a research-led UK university, and the coordinator for an undergraduate computer science degree programme - I know what I'm talking about)

Comment: A particularly sloppy summary (Score 5, Informative) 60

by ngibbins (#42249520) Attached to: Happy Birthday To Ada Lovelace, the First Computer Programmer
Lovelace's contribution lay in her translation and annotation of Menabrea's description of the Analytical Engine, for which she wrote a short program. Like the Difference Engines, the Analytical Engine was not built during Babbage's (or Lovelace's) lifetime. Unlike the Difference Engine, the Analytical Engine has never been built; the "computer [...] not actually built until 2002" was the Difference Engine No.2, designed by Babbage in the late 1840s, which is a calculator and not a computer. The date of 2002 is also misleading, and refers to the completion of the printer for the DE No.2 (in 2000) that was built by Doron Swade's group at the Science Museum in London between 1989 and 1991. Furthermore, her husband was not the "Count of Lovelace", but rather the 1st Earl of Lovelace (formerly Lord King, Baron of Ockham, and then Viscount Ockham). 'Count' is not a British title of peerage; her title of countess was therefore the result of her marriage to an earl.

Comment: Re:What if ...? (Score 1) 756

by ngibbins (#38869315) Attached to: What If the Apollo Program Never Happened?

That's not exactly true. The true answer is "Have a marketable sequel planned out" [...] If NASA had said "We're getting to Mars in 15 years. The moon will be merely remembered as our first baby steps by the year 2000." we might have an interesting alternate history -- but it's only regretful musings at this point.

Not true; NASA had a marketable sequel planned, in the form of the Integrated Manned Program. This was presented by NASA to the Space Task Group in 1969, and would have included (in the most agressive plan): an earth to orbit space shuttle (the Integrated Launch and Reentry Vehicle System) in 1975; NERVA-based reusable nuclear shuttles for Earth-Moon transfers, as well as Mars and Venus missions by 1978; a Earth orbit station by 1975; a lunar orbit station by 1976; a lunar surface base by 1978; a fifty-man Earth orbit station by 1980; and a first mission to Mars in 1981.

In short, NASA said "we're getting to Mars in twelve years". Nixon's response was to cut NASA's funding to the level required to support the development of the Space Shuttle.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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