Many bioscience graduates lack the practical skills that make them attractive to employers, according to a 2010 survey.
In order to fill this skills gap, the Society of Biology launched a degree accreditation programme this week, with four universities' biochemistry courses being awarded accredited status at a ceremony in the Houses of Parliament.
'The programme will signpost students to the degree courses recognised by industry as providing the essential scientific and practical skills needed for a career in life sciences', said the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, who presented the awards.
Forty-five percent of the 33 respondents to the Society of Biology survey said they couldn't recruit candidates who met the needs of all their graduate-entry level jobs. A lack of practical skills and experience working in a research lab or field environment were common reasons for unsuccessful applications.
To tackle this, Rachel Lambert-Forsyth, Head of Education at the Society of Biology, explains, the selection criteria were based on learning outcomes, with a strong emphasis on time spent in an active research environment, in addition to academic excellence.
The accreditation programme was developed with the support of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the Department for Business Innovation & Skills.
'We believe that accreditation of bioscience degrees will enable employers to feel confident that recruits from UK universities have the skills and knowledge required to make substantial contributions to the research and development of new medicines', said Sarah Jones from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
The Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield and Liverpool were involved in a pilot that ran from June 2011, and were accredited on 20 March 2012. It is hoped more universities will join them in the future.