This report from KCL examines which examines young people’s science and career aspirations, introducing the concept of 'science capital'

Key findings:

Most young people have high aspirations – just not for science.

  • Only around 15% aspire to become a scientist vs 60% to work in business

Negative views of school science and scientists are NOT the problem.

  • most young people report liking school science from Year 6
  • 42 per cent of Year 9 students are interested in studying more science in the future

Family ‘science capital’ is key

  • Longitudinal tracking showed that students with low science capital who do not express STEM related aspirations at age 10 are unlikely to develop STEM aspirations by the age of 14.

Most students and families are not aware of where science can lead

The brainy image of scientists and science careers puts many young people off

  • Over 80 per cent of young people in our surveys agreed that ‘scientists are brainy’. This association influences many young people’s views of science careers as ‘not for me’

The (white) male, middle-class image of science careers remains a problem

  • Surveys showed that a student is most likely to express science aspirations if he is male, Asian, has high/very high levels of cultural capital, is in the top set for science and has a family member who works in science or a STEM-related job.
  • A student is least likely to see science as ‘for me’ if she is female, White, has low/very low levels of cultural capital, is in the bottom set and does not have any family members who use science in their jobs.