UK universities aren’t producing enough science graduates suggests a new report from the Lords Science and Technology Committee – and those that do don’t have the skills needed by industry.
The report – Higher Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects – suggests that there is a mismatch between STEM graduates and postgraduates supply, and demand from employers in terms of students and their skills.
The Committee are concerned that the number of pupils studying maths post-16 is insufficient to meet the level of numeracy needed in modern society, and that the level of maths taught does not meet the requirements to study STEM at an undergraduate level. Figures show that 70% of biology undergraduates, 38% of chemistry undergraduates and 10% of engineering students did not have A-level maths. Even an A* in A-level maths did not guarantee students could cope with a university STEM course.
“In reality the quality of the STEM graduates coming out of universities does not meet the requirements of industry and in fact is ultimately not even likely to meet the requirements of academia,” said Lord Willis, who chaired the report.
The report recommends that the study of maths be compulsory for all students post-16, and that maths to A2 level be a requirement for those intending to study STEM at university. The report also recommends that Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) work to establish where the skills gaps are, and which areas of maths are essentials to STEM undergraduate study. The Committee are behind a single national syllabus as suggested by the House of Commons Education Committee.
However, the report does also mention that there is a lack of reliable data on supply and demand of STEM graduates and postgraduates, making it difficult to assess is there really is a shortage and in which sectors. It suggests that the Government commission a study to find out the first destination of STEM graduates with a first degree, which may explain reasons behind career choices and why STEM graduates take non-STEM jobs.