Stem Subjects: Degrees

Department for Education written question – answered on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent steps he has taken to encourage more students to study STEM degrees.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

Overall numbers of students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are rising. The share of students studying science subjects at English Higher Education providers has increased from 41% in 2010/11 to 45% in 2016/17.

Despite rising STEM student numbers, we are far from complacent and we know that employer groups continue to point to an unmet demand for higher level STEM skills. This issue seems to be particularly acute in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, engineering, science and technology. We are therefore implementing a number of initiatives across government to increase the numbers of STEM graduates. For example:

  • The Department for Education (DfE) is piloting a conversion course scheme to enable graduates to retrain in engineering and computer science.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are leading a £90 million investment in 1,000 new PhD places, of which around 85% will be in STEM areas, and 40% will aim to boost collaboration between industry and academia.
  • The government is providing funding for the new Institute of Coding, which aims to improve digital skills provision at levels 6 and 7. It will target a skills gap in digital skills and involves collaboration between education providers and industry.
  • The DfE is also supporting (with £15 million over 3 years) the New Model in Technology & Engineering, a STEM-focused institution due to take its first full cohort of students in 2020.
  • Institutes of Technology are being established to help meet STEM skills needs at levels 4 – 6, working closely with local employers and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Effective careers guidance and advice is also key to supporting young people to undertake learning in areas that will give them the skills employers are looking for. The government’s careers strategy sets out a long-term plan to build a world class careers system to achieve this ambition. We are increasing the information available to students to ensure they can make informed choices about what and where to study.

As set out in the Industrial Strategy White Paper, the Skills Advisory Panels (SAPs) programme aims to ensure that the local provision of skills, and the delivery of skills policy in local areas, meets and responds to changing employer needs. SAPs analysis will inform Local Industrial Strategies and local post-16 skills provision, so that skills provision better meets labour market needs.

Degree apprenticeships also allow universities to build partnerships with businesses and employers and to work together to create a skilled workforce. Employers are working in partnership with universities and professional bodies to meet the high-level technical skills that employers and our economy need to prosper.

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