From Mr E.G. Nisbet.

Sir, Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, complains that the UK education system fails to teach key technology skills (“Google chief attacks media red tape”, August 27). Current government plans to favour AAB entry grades will jeopardise redbrick university departments teaching professional skills such as computer science, engineering and earth science. Key skills such as geology are concentrated in a relatively small number of redbricks and will be selectively threatened by the design of the AAB tilt.

Unlike some arts and social science subjects, professional skills are expensive to teach and demand much tougher, less-inflated A levels. Oxbridge will prosper, but the pool of high A applicants is very small and redbrick departments will struggle as places are removed.

Cutting non-AAB places will produce fewer computer science nerds, grimy northern engineers and hairy geologists with petroleum, mining or, indeed, climate change skills. Labour closed many physics and chemistry departments. Now the coalition plans will squeeze the professional skills departments.

As a recent article in Times Higher Education makes clear, the decision to reduce non-AAB places puts a dagger to these redbrick technical departments. Favouring business studies is all very well, but our deep reservoir of technical skills will evaporate. Will the new seas of multitudinous managers be anything but in-the-red? “Cultured but poor, with an erudite Treasury” is perhaps an elegant future for the nation, but incarnadine Britain does need real skills to put food on the table.

E.G. Nisbet, Egham, Surrey, UK

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