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Science and engineering courses continue to increase in popularity

18 Feb 2015

CaSE responds to new Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) data on student degree courses.

Last week HESA released data for the number of students starting degree courses in the 2013/14 academic year.

Enrolment on science subjects (in which HESA include engineering, medicine and maths) was up 8% on the previous year and 21% in the past seven years* (from 2007/08). The social sciences, arts and humanities saw a 5% increase in student numbers on the previous year and a 10% increase from 2007/08. The total number of students starting higher education increased by 5% from 2012/13 and by 13% from seven years ago.

Science subjects attracted 42% of new students starting a full-time degree in 2007/08. This proportion has increased ever-so slightly over the past seven years, with 45% of the 2013/14 intake opting for a science course. Whilst this is not a huge rise it is an interesting trend that we’ll be keeping an eye on.

521,990 students started their first degree course at a UK higher education provider in 2013/14. This is 5% higher than in 2012/13, but still 5% lower than in 2011/12 – the last year before the £9,000 fee cap was introduced.

Almost all broad subject areas have enjoyed an increase in the number of students opting to study them over the seven years of the time series. Subjects allied to medicine and the biological sciences saw the highest percentage growth in entrants (39% and 30% respectively). Maths wasn’t far behind with a 24% increase.

The physical sciences, and engineering and technology enjoyed a 16% and 15% rise in popularity, respectively. Building and planning courses however significantly contributed to a 21% drop in the number of students enrolling in the Architecture, Building and Planning category. Languages also saw a 6% overall drop.

This rise in popularity of science courses is good news but it isn’t enough. To find the 1.28 million new science and engineering professionals that current estimates say we need, we have to increase supply. There are two ways of doing that: attract skilled workers from overseas or produce more of our own home-grown talent. CaSE believes that action is needed on both fronts and, along with others in the sector, we will continue to work with this government, and the next, to make it happen.

* If you are wondering why the data series goes back seven years, it is becuase2007/08 was the first year of the JACS2 subject coding system which is comparable with the current JACS3 system introduced in 2012/13