CBI calls for bursaries for science and engineering students at university

Published:  02 September, 2007

To encourage more students to study science and engineering, the Confederation of British Industry has proposed a bursary of 1000 a year per student. The suggestion has been made against the background of a decline over many years in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Its total cost is put at around 200 million a year.

The idea is part of a 5-point plan that proposes action across the schools and universities system to get more young people interested in science and help deliver the 2.4 million STEM-qualified staff needed by 2014.

The CBI wants to see the brightest 40% of 14-year-olds automatically opted into separate physics, chemistry and biology GCSE courses instead of the stripped-down science now studied by most. Only 8% of 16-year-olds currently take three science subjects.

Another suggestion is for 120 million of new funding for one-to-one careers advice at ages 14, 16 and 18, which will help challenge misconceptions about science and engineering degrees. The CBI says that companies also need to take further steps to encourage young people into these careers.

The need for more specialist science teachers to inspire youngsters is also highlighted. A quarter of schools for 11- to 16-year-olds currently do not have a specialist physics teacher.

The CBI believes that action in each of these areas could increase to 25% the proportion of A-level students taking at least two science or a science with maths and double the percentage of STEM students at university form the current 13%.

Since 1984, the number of people studying physics A-level has slumped by 57%, and the take-up of chemistry has dropped by 28%. The proportion of graduates in physics and chemistry fell by 25% between 1994 and 2006.

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