More than 25% of children want to study science at university

PROFESSOR BRIAN COX said, “If the Government really does want to make Britain the best place in the world to do science, then we need to open up the doors of our universities to the many thousands of kids who want to study science. Not only will this make them happy, it will give them the wherewithal to contribute to the future of our economy.”

27% of children hope to study a STEM subject at university, rising to 37% in the general area of science

A degree in Technology, Engineering or Physics appeals to just 4% of girls – vs 26% of boys

12% of children want to study Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing or Pharmacy at university – 15% of girls vs 6% of boys

Twice as many children (27%) now want to study a so-called STEM subject at university (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) than they do Business, Social Studies, Law, and Languages (12% combined), a new survey1, conducted for The Astellas Innovation Debate (www.innovationdebate.com), has found.  However, science subjects still hold little appeal for girls, with just 4% wanting to study for a degree in Technology, Engineering or Physics appeals vs 26% of boys.

Of the 706 children surveyed aged from 8 to 18, over a quarter would now choose to study for a degree in Science (11%), Technology & Engineering (11%) or Maths (4%), with a further 10% hoping to study to become a Doctor, Dentist, Pharmacist or Nurse, if they had the opportunity or the right A-level grades.  Only a degree in the Arts (18%) proved more popular.   These figures compare to 6% favouring the Humanities, 5% Education, 4% Business Studies, 3% Law, 3% Social Studies and 2% for Languages and 2% Architecture.

When it comes to careers, 21% of children favoured a job in the Arts, 16% said they wanted to work in IT & Technology, 12% in Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing or Pharmacy, 10% as a research scientist and 9% in Engineering.

Just 6% would choose a job in Politics and the Civil Service and 4% in banking.

When asked why they would choose a job in the fields of science and technology, two thirds (73%) stated: “I think working in a job like this would make me happy”.  In comparison, 26% said they would make a career choice based on maximum remuneration, while 24% said they wanted a job that would give them a greater opportunity to contribute to society.

Physicist Professor Brian Cox who spoke at the Astellas Innovation Debate at the Royal Society said:

“Surely this means that nobody can claim any longer that there is a shortage of scientists and engineers because young people aren’t interested in taking up science.  These figures prove that the next generation has the will to study STEM subjects – but do they have the way?

“I applaud George Osborne for taking up our challenge to make Britain into the best place in the world to do science, but the Government now needs to turn its promises into action.

“Nothing is more important than providing these kids with an opportunity to learn and to fulfil their ambitions.  Why should the vital privilege of studying a subject like physics at university be confined to students who have achieved A, A, A* at A level?  If the Government really does want to make Britain the best place in the world to do science, then we need to open up the doors of our universities to the many thousands of kids who want to study STEM subjects. Not only will this make them happy, it will give them the wherewithal to contribute to the future of our economy.”

“Science, technology and healthcare are part of the lifeblood of the economy in Britain and Europe, and these 8 to 18 year-olds represent the innovators of the future,” said Ken Jones, President and CEO of Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., which has organised and funded The Astellas Innovation Debate.

“According to the Science Council, 5.8 million people in the UK are employed in science-based occupations, which equates to 20% of the UK workforce, and the numbers are growing: by 2030 it is projected that 7.1 million people will be employed in science roles. This poll shows once again that there is considerable enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering, and maths – no doubt partly inspired by the media presence of scientists like Professor Brian Cox and Dr Christian Jessen. But, in tough economic times, we need to ensure that these young people are in a position to fulfill their ambitions and contribute to the economy.”

Boys vs Girls

While STEM subjects overall seem to hold a healthy appeal to all school students, IT, Engineering and Physics still appear to remain a largely male domain.

Of the girls polled, just 2% said they hoped to study Technology and Engineering at university, compared to 21% of boys – so boys stand to outnumber girls in these subjects by a factor of more than 10.  Of the 11% of boys and girls who hoped to study for a science degree, 32% were planning on physics, with boys dominating girls by a factor of three to one.

By contrast, 15% of girls hope to study health-related subjects, including Medicine; the figure for boys is just 6%.

What parents want their kids to study

Nearly half of all parents (47%) would prefer their children to study for a general based science degree at university over any other subject. Toping this list was 1. Science & Technology 17%, 2.Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy 14% and 3. Science & Maths 14%.  Only 2% hoped their children would study for a Humanities degree and just 6% favoured an Arts degree compared vs 18% of children.(3)

Also speaking at the Astellas Innovation Debate, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, RM Phillips Professor of Science and Technology at University of Sussex, commented:

“To make more kids want to study STEM it is not enough to talk up Science. It is fundamental to find ways to make contributing to the real production economy more profitable than simply speculating in the trading economy. Currently the rewards system is so dysfunctional that it is steering talent in the wrong direction. “

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