Willetts said that Britain needs to become the “best place in the world to do science"
The government is to invest £200 million in new teaching facilities for science and engineering subjects in UK universities, David Willetts, universities and science minister, has announced.
Willetts said universities would be entitled to the extra cash if they could match it with private money, telling the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester it was time more women were attracted in to the sector.
In a speech to the main hall, he said universities should aim to double the proportion of engineering degrees taken by women.
And he said Britain had to become the “best place in the world to do science”, adding that to achieve that there had to be long-term investment.
Willetts said: “We are not going to win in the global race if we waste the talents of half the British people. The proportion of engineers who are women is one of the lowest in Europe and we've got to raise our game.
“That is why we support the ambition of doubling the proportion of engineering degrees taken by women.
“Today I can announce two initiatives to help us achieve just that. We will extend fee loans to part time students of engineering, technology, and computer science who already have a degree in a different discipline.
“And we will invest £200 million in new teaching facilities for science and engineering in our universities.
“Universities will have to match it with private money, so that makes £400 million of investment so that students can be taught on the latest equipment and ready for the world of work. That is our commitment to working with universities and business to help win the global race.”
Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said: “Women are under-represented in some areas of science and engineering and that means that the UK is missing out on some of the best people in fields that are hugely important to our economy.
“It is excellent news that the government is being ambitious about tackling this issue. Much good work has been done in recent years but this is not a problem that can be solved overnight. It will be difficult to achieve these ambitions but we look forward to doing what we can to help.”