The wrong kind of STEM: UK needs fewer psychologists and more physicists

October 29, 2009

Additional student places in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects will not address the shortage of STEM skills because candidates are studying the wrong degrees, the Confederation of British Industry has heard.

Addressing the CBI higher education summit, Sir Brian Follett, chair of the STEM Advisory Forum, said that although STEM numbers were strong, the UK produced too many psychologists and not enough physicists.

He said that with almost 100,000 new STEM undergraduates each year, the UK was performing well. But in recent years, the physical sciences had lost 10 per cent of candidates while the biological sciences had seen a 20 per cent increase.

Sir Brian said that this needed to be "rebalanced": "We should make it more attractive to study chemistry, physics or engineering, and less attractive to study psychology. We have many levers in government to do that."

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