The importance of STEM in higher education

25 July 2012

Commenting on the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report on STEM in Higher Education, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“The Committee are right to say too few students apply to study science, technology, engineering and maths degrees. It is vital to the future prospects of young people, and the success of UK business, that we encourage greater numbers to study these subjects at undergraduate level – but also right through the system.

“Russell Group universities produce around 30% of the UK’s science and engineering graduates and nearly 80% of the nation’s doctors and dentists so we are particularly interested in the viability of these courses. Both the Government and HEFCE need to ensure STEM provision is sustainable and has sufficient funding – we are concerned that the funding supplement of less than £1,500 for science, engineering and technology undergraduates is insufficient to meet the full costs of the first-rate teaching we provide to those students.

“Universities would welcome policies designed to increase the number of school pupils gaining good GCSEs and A-level results to prepare them for degrees in STEM subjects. Numeracy skills are essential for a wide range of courses at leading universities, from engineering and medicine to economics.  Maths and sciences are already required for entry to many of our courses and we published Informed Choices to highlight this point.  All students need to be aware of the importance of subject choice to their subsequent options at university and in employment.

“The study of STEM subjects is vital at not only at undergraduate level but also at Masters and PhD and the lack of financial support at postgraduate level is another hurdle for students to overcome. We don’t believe that fees deter poorer students when combined with loans and a progressive repayment system. But the lack of funding for postgraduates could have damaging consequences.”

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