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Supporting our future scientists and engineers

Posted by on June 19, 2014

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, director of education and training at the Society of Biology, discusses the role degree accreditation can play in building the next generation of skilled life scientists.

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, director of education and training at the Society of Biology


On 3rd June, I participated in a panel debate for Westminster Higher Education Forums. The topic of the event was ‘Developing the next generation of scientists and engineers‘.

There has been lot of debate on this subject of late. For me, one of the critical steps to building a career in the STEM industry is education – both in and out of the lecture theatre. However, the biosciences have only recently caught up with the other STEM subjects in recognising the importance of industrial placements and longer research exposure as part of the undergraduate experience and the positive effect this can have on job prospects.

In 2012, the Society of Biology launched the Degree Accreditation Programme for integrated masters and bachelor degrees with a year in industry. The focus of this advanced accreditation is to highlight degrees that have the potential to educate the life science leaders and innovators of the future, acknowledging academic excellence by highlighting degrees that provide graduates with the skills andexperience necessary to enter employment in either academic or industrial research and innovation roles.

But what does accreditation mean for employers? The content of bioscience degrees can vary significantly, even when they have the same title. As such, it can be difficult to know what experience students have gained while studying them. Many employers have admitted in the past to recruiting too highly for graduate level jobs simply because they cannot identify those students with the skills they need. Our accreditation recognises degree programmes that offer students the opportunity to gain experience and develop certain skills – meaning graduates from accredited degrees should be able to demonstrate skills and abilities, such as practical experience, an understanding of other science disciplines, analytical problem-solving and the capacity for independent study.

It’s is generally felt that those graduates who participate in a substantial research experience in the undergraduate years are best prepared for the world of work post-university. It also supports recruitment practices in bioscience industries.

In 5-10 years’ time we hope to see a visible positive impact on both the student’s experience of being recruited post-university and employer’s experience of recruiting highly skilled and work-ready graduates from the biosciences.

But don’t just take my word for it, on Friday 27th June, the Society of Biology, alongside HR Zone and some of our sector partners from AstraZeneca, the University of Leeds and MedImmune, will be discussing degree accreditation and supporting effective STEM graduate recruitment in a webinar. To register or to find out more, please click here.

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