Higher Education in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Inquiry launched

02 November 2011

The House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee today invites contributions to its new inquiry which will ask how the UK builds the educational foundations it needs to face the challenges of the future. The inquiry will address higher education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the so-called STEM subjects

See the full Call for Evidence for the full list of questions

A healthy science base is vital for our economy to enable the UK to do well as a nation, grow its economy and address the grand challenges currently facing us, such as climate change and tackling global pandemics.

Yet it is not clear that the UK has the strong base it needs. The Higher Education Funding Council for England labels STEM subjects as “strategically important and vulnerable”. It says that interventions such as additional funding are needed to make sure that the right courses are provided. Industry reports a critical shortage of graduates in these subjects, not helped by the fact that about half of STEM graduates go into unrelated careers. At the same time, a Birmingham University study says that there may be too many STEM graduates for the labour market.

The Committee will ask how the UK can make sure that the supply of graduates in STEM subjects meets current and future needs.

  • Are there enough high-quality STEM graduates and post-graduates to meet the needs of industry, government and the country’s research base?
  • Are employers providing the right incentives to attract the best STEM graduates?
  • What can we learn from other countries’ experiences?

Committee Chairman Lord Willis of Knaresborough said: “Our nation’s future depends on our building today the right skills to meet the unprecedented challenges facing us. At the heart of that challenge is the need for a well educated, well motivated and inspirational cadre of graduates in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“However, we are receiving very clear warning signals from industry and academia that the supply and quality of STEM graduates needs to be addressed urgently.  If we let our skills base decline it will be extremely difficult to recover in the future. It is vital therefore that our higher education institutions, industry and government work together to build the world class STEM skills base that our nation deserves.

“I welcome contributions from everyone who has a key interest in making sure our preparation of STEM graduates and post-graduates is right for the UK. My Committee, which brings together a wide range of experience in science, medicine, technology, business and education, depends on the contributions from a wide section of people prepared to give us the benefit of their expertise. Together we hope to make a real contribution to this key subject area.”

Written evidence must be received by 16 December.

Image: istock

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