Science shows signs of upturn

June 27, 1997

The crisis-point dearth of school-leavers applying for science degrees is over, Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said this week.

There has been an increase in applications for almost all science courses, according to latest UCAS figures. "These are only figures for one year but perhaps the decline has bottomed out," he said. "Is this the beginning of the long-awaited upsurge?" Applications for biochemistry were up 9.7 per cent to 12,509, demand for physics courses was up 8.5 per cent to 18,213, biology applications grew 2.4 per cent to 32,711 and chemistry grew 1.9 per cent to 21,771. Only maths is still "not too clever" said Mr Higgins, with a drop of 2 per cent at 22,293.

Now he believes the changes of the national curriculum have filtered through the system. "It's the first year of a full cohort of people going through the national curriculum," he said. "Science has been taught earlier in schools and was made compulsory in the national curriculum."

There was a small rise of 1.4 per cent in overall applications to higher education, "arresting the decline of previous years," Mr Higgins said.

UCAS figures also show that applications for teacher training have fallen by 11 per cent.

Speaking at a recruitment evening at the Institute of Education this week, Estelle Morris, undersecretary for school standards, said: "We need to move from this culture of blame to a culture of support if we are to encourage top-quality recruits into the profession."

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