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The event was part of the RSB’s ongoing Policy Lates series, that brings together diverse panellists to share their experiences and have open discussions with the audience on a topic of interest.

Panellists present were Dr Katherine Hubbard, Daniele Acquisto AMRSB, and Professor Rory Duncan, with the event chaired by Dr Philip Young FRSB, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the life sciences department at the University of Warwick.

The event started with a talk from Dr Hubbard, a reader in biology education from the University of Hull, who received the RSB’s Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year award in 2016 and the Society for Experimental Biology’s President’s Medal for the Education section in 2017.

Education speakers

From left to right: Dr Philip Young, Dr Katherine Hubbard, Daniele Acquisto and Professor Rory Duncan

Dr Hubbard discussed how varied the backgrounds and experiences are of students starting university – of the 45,000 students who start a biosciences degree each year, around 25% come in with qualifications other than A levels.

She also noted the inequalities experienced by students as they move through higher education, with 82% of white students graduating with a first or a 2:1, compared to 60% of black students, for example.

Daniele Acquisto AMRSB, winner of RSB’s Apprentice of the Year Award in 2020, shared his experience of undertaking an apprenticeship after finishing school. He currently works at GSK whilst also studying for a bioscience degree at the University of Kent.

Acquisto explained the benefits and challenges of an apprenticeship, for students and providers. He pointed out some of the training, information and support resources he has used at stages of his education and career so far.

Professor Duncan then spoke about his role as director for talent and skills at UKRI and careers in research. Around a quarter of all PhD students in the UK are supported by UKRI, with the UK training the third largest cohort of PhD students worldwide.

He highlighted the complexity of career routes throughout research and innovation, and the value the Government places on research through its financial support of so many researchers across the UK.

Questions from the audience then ranged from enquiring about the specific experiences of the panellists, through to more general topics including the pros and cons of work experience and placements; the role of student support services in universities; and increasing accessibility and inclusion in education and research.

You can watch the event on the RSB’s YouTube channel, or dip into the discussion following the event on twitter.

The RSB’s Policy Lates events are sponsored by the Biochemical Society, the British Pharmacological Society, the Society for Applied Microbiology, the Society for Experimental Biology, and The Physiological Society.