Universities falling short on STEM, say employers

Universities are not producing enough science graduates to meet the needs of the UK economy, business leaders have claimed.

October 13, 2013

Six in ten employers of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates think there is a skills gap in the UK that will take more than 10 years to close, according to a YouGov poll of 300 senior managers at UK companies.

Some 83 per cent of businesses say the skills gap needs to be bridged in order for the UK to be competitive in the world economy, according to the research commissioned by Cambridge-based software firm MathWorks.

In its STEM Skills Gap Report, published on 11 October, the firm also examines attitudes of academics at 24 research-intensive universities on how industry-university collaboration could be increased.

Over half (52 per cent) of employers and almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of academics say industry does not currently work closely enough with universities.

More than six in ten (63 per cent) of businesses think industry should have a greater say and make a greater investment in the STEM curriculum in the UK, but universities are less enthusiastic, with just 46 per cent of academics welcoming this type of industry involvement.

Some 61 per cent of businesses surveyed recommend more project-based learning in STEM subjects to engage students in the investigation of science and real-world engineering problems. However, only a third (34 per cent) of the academics polled thought the same.

Coorous Mohtadi, a MathWorks spokesman, said the report shows more should be done to encourage students to study STEM subjects in tertiary education.

It also indicates that STEM curricula need to better reflect the requirements of industry, he added

“The different approaches to addressing the STEM skills gap are interesting and highlight the need for greater collaboration between industry and academia,” said Dr Mohtadi.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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