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Higher education seeding a STEM-less society

November 20, 2011

The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has issued a call for evidence as it launches its inquiry into higher education of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The National STEM Centre reports that annual turnover from UK engineering is £800bn, yet more and more employers are reporting that they are unable to find graduates with STEM backgrounds. This has lead to these fields being described as ‘strategically important but vulnerable’ (the so-called ‘SIV subjects’).

The major areas of concern for the committee will be in addressing the claims from industry of a shortage of graduates in STEM subjects, the number of these graduates working in jobs that don’t require STEM backgrounds and looking at the higher education process at each stage to see where improvements need to be made.

Children interested in STEM subjects

The committee will be asking questions about various aspects of higher education, from A-levels through to employment. However, is it the 16+ students that the committee should be focusing on? An interest in STEM subjects can begin from a much younger age, as is the belief of Barry Richards, a lead engineer from Electroimpact.

Says Richards:

“I believe that if you don’t have an interest in science and engineering before the age of 10 then you are very unlikely to develop the real underlying interest in these things, that subliminally directs you on the course of your STEM future.”

Richards has reported his concern that young people are not being educated in the right way to inspire a pursuit of engineering and associated subjects. He welcomed news of the inquiry, stating, “I hope the committee grab the bull by the horns on this subject because we don’t really have time to waste on recovering the situation.”

At the CaSE strategy meeting last week, the subject of higher education in STEM subjects was a major area of discussion. The select committee will have its work cut out as varying opinions battle it out on how best to maintain the UK’s leading position in research and development and inspire the next generation of employees seeking to fill STEM roles.

You can submit your evidence by email to by 16th December.

Are there any other questions that you would ask? And do you think that higher education in the UK is failing our STEM graduates? Please leave your comments below.

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