Tuition fees should be reduced for science, engineering and maths degrees to combat the country’s skills crisis, Sir James Dyson has said.
This would act as an incentive for students to take up subjects which they perceive to be more difficult than the humanities and arts, according to the 73-year-old inventor.
Sir James, who is best known as the inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner and was recently named as the wealthiest man in Britain, said that a “snobbish” attitude is discouraging youngsters from pursuing engineering as a career.
He warned that the UK is facing a shortage of engineers, saying that the country is not training enough.
Lowing fees for engineering degrees would “act as an incentive” for students, Sir James said, adding: “Engineering is seen as a difficult subject and others are seen as easier. If you have reduced fees, you do a difficult subject and you have to work hard, but you pay less.”
Students pay up to £9,250 per year for tuition fees regardless of which subject they study. Vice-Chancellors are generally opposed to any fee cuts, arguing that this would send the sector into crisis.
Earlier this month, the Dyson Institute was handed powers to award its own degrees, becoming the first under new legislation designed to encourage new and innovative universities.
Sir James set up the institution four years ago after becoming frustrated at the shortage of British engineers as well as the “appalling” levels of debt students take on from going to university.
Undergraduates at The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology do not pay any tuition fees, and instead are paid £18,000 a year to do a full-time job in research and development alongside their academic studies.
At the end of their degree, students who have met all the requirements of their course and work are offered a job by Dyson but are not under any obligation to take it.
Sir James said that Britain has a “cultural” problem with manufacturing, adding: “It is a snobbish thing, people look down their noses at manufacturing.”
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Charles Dickens and William Blake despised industry and the process of making money by manufacturing.
“There has been an antipathy to manufacturing and making things and engineering that has existed for 300 years.
“The British want to be part of a professional class, they want to be doctors, lawyers and bankers. They don’t want to make things and be engineers, that is considered a stupid thing to do. They think it is ok to make money as a banker that’s ok but not if you make something.”