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Science and Math Enrollments Reach New High In UK

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the get-your-science dept.

Education 91

ianare writes "There has been a continued increase in the number of students taking A-level science and maths subjects. Physics has been especially popular. A growing fascination with science and teacher support schemes seem to be improving the teaching of maths and physics in UK state schools. From the article: 'There is evidence that two teacher support schemes funded by the Department for Education and run by the Institute of Physics and Mathematics in Education and Industry are beginning to make a big difference. The IOP runs a network in England designed to help science teachers teach physics, called the Stimulating Physics Network. The MEI has a similar scheme called the Further Mathematics Support Programme. There is compelling evidence that much of the rise in the numbers of A-level students comes from schools participating in the scheme.'"

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Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41051937)

It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it!

Re:Science (2)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052137)

Will there be any jobs waiting for them when they come out of the system?

Re:Science (3, Informative)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052209)

Yes, most likely. There's a huge demand for physics and maths based degrees in the UK. There's a reasonable chance of getting a job in teaching or research, but the real boom area is financial services. Basically, if you can model money with PDEs you'll find a job (although I've known several people drop out of that field because of ethical issues). Physics is probably one of the most adaptable degree subjects, and certainly more employable than being one of the huge number of English Lit / Politics / Philosophy / Economics graduates.

Re:Science (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052325)

100% agreed. Regardless of actual role (outside EXTREMELY specialised fields and even then experience wins over degree), when hiring, a Maths/Science degree almost guarantees an interview (outside financial services where jobs are currently few and far between, though historically it was almost a pre-requesite).

The unemployment problem isn't to do with lack of jobs, there are plenty available, just not that many for "fluffy" degree grads.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41053713)

The UK is lucky. This isn't the case in the US.

Re:Science (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053127)

It is probably worth pointing out A-levels are courses offered to 16 -19 year olds (in general and in a school) after the first round of qualifications at 16vand are a pre-requisite to studying at Degree Level, The performance at A-level is what will determine which courses and University these students will be offered. Note there are alternatives to A-levels which tend to be offered at colleges rather than schools.

I get the impression that people think these students are already studying Maths and Science Degree's, but they are not and could choose to enter any number of Degree courses, In many different fields.
Unfortunately A-level subjects tend to be restricted to core subjects such as Math's Physics Chemistry and Biology for potential Bsc students potential BA students tend towards studying the Humanities. The trouble with A-levels is that many schools will not have enough students to be able to support more diverse A-Levels Which is why the alternative is going to a college which draws on a larger area for it's students.

Re:Science (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053281)

Also because so many students do physics A-level universities often assume that most students will have it.

I remember some of my first year courses in electronic systems engineering being tough because I hadn't done physics at A-level and while they did just about cover everything needed they went through it very quickly.

easier from core to secondary than reverse (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#41054605)

My graduate degree was in a more applied field. We accepted undergraduate from core majors. Its pobably less likely to major in secondary field, then try to get into math or physics grad school.

Re:Science (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053809)

It's slightly different in Scotland - you generally do five Highers, which gives you a nice wide range (in my case, Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry and History), this is your basic tertiary entrance exam. You then have a final year when you can either catch up on subjects you didn't do well in, or specialise in a smaller number of subjects at what is roughly 1st year Uni level.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41053159)

Yeah, but it would be nice if there were actually any jobs in physics. That's exactly why I didn't major in physics. Why bother with that and then need to work in an unrelated field.

Re:Science (2)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053777)

In my case, because I wanted to know more about physics. Ideally I'd have gone on to work on one of the big telescopes in Hawaii, or possibly the Big Secret Hanger in Area 51, but I know when I was going into it that I may work in a field outside physics. Even these days, 15 years later, I still "do physics" on a regular basis, from fixing things to envelope calculations. The reason I went for physics in the first place were, in this order:

1: The pleasure of finding things out.
2: Something I knew would be useful whatever I did.
3: Getting a job.
4: Getting a job in physics.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41054033)

Good news for me. I'm to begin my degree (degree? I'm not English..) in Physics in October. I plan to do the first three years here in Portugal, and then seek to complete the remaining two years in a Uni abroad. I happen to live 2km from one of the best Science universities in Portugal and in Europe, but I'm really afraid of what employment will be in five years. I've heard also that financial services are having a high demand for Physicists now, but will this boom remain in five years? And how will other employment options be around that time?

Re:Science (1)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058589)

If I could tell you the answer to that you wouldn't need to worry, you could wait 5 years and I'll give you a couple of million in loose change!

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41053955)

As a student set to begin Uni degree in Physics in October, I certainly hope so.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41055347)

Projecting failure like this is why I'm trying to extricate myself from any internet comments. I'm sure some with nostalgia will tell me in was better "back in the day", but I don't human nature has changed. So, "ciderbrew", apparently commenting was easier for you than furthering yourself or being positive. Hopefully, plenty of people did not read your precious comment (precious only to you and other trolls) and will study math and science.

Re:Science (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065551)

Actually my easy comment gave " History's Coming To (1059484)" and "wisdom_brewing (557753)" a forum to add some interesting stuff. I particularly liked History's Coming To's post about Scottish education being different with their " five Highers". Scottish education had been better than the English system for a few hundred years and they produced some of the worlds best in many fields.
Lots of people read my precious comment and many gave up study on the spot.

Re:Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41057121)

Maybe if the western world does what would a few generations have been considered the obvious course of action and economically retaliate against China for pegging its currency low.

Yes, pegging your currency low was in ages past considered an economic act of war. Today, not so. Strange.

Investing. (3, Insightful)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41051939)

So the Government invests in education and this yields results.

Shocking!

Investing . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052003)

Fear [pjmedia.com] ?

This is good. (3, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#41051965)

I regret not doing more mathematics the first time round at A level, but there are problems to be addressed. I did turn my degree ("major", as Americans seem to call it) toward mathematics, and for preparatory work ended up doing another math A-level via private study, for which I received the top % in the country for that exam board. But all I really did was cram the study books published by the same company which produced the exams.

At a ceremony thing, following a long discussion with some of the staff at the board, I was immediately offered a trial position. I stupidly didn't take it. Well, I know at the time I was recovering from an illness which had just appeared and wasn't really thinking straight about what I could do long term. But I would like to have played at least some part in turning it more from a "learn for the test" thing into a "learn problem-solving" thing.

Re:This is good. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053921)

("major", as Americans seem to call it)

Haaaaaavahd [wikipedia.org]

Simpler explanation (5, Informative)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 2 years ago | (#41051967)

I think there's probably quite a simple explanation for this. The amount of debt that students in England and Wales will likely need to take on (barring rich parents) to pay for a degree has risen significantly from this year (not quite at US levels yet, but getting much closer). At the same time, the huge expansion in the numbers going to university has meant that the chances of a degree leading to graduate-level employment have fallen sharply.

The perception now is that if you want to go from university into a "good" job, then you need either a science degree, or an arts degree from one of the elite institutions (Oxford, Cambridge, or one of the other top 10 or so universities). A decade ago, studying a "silly" degree for three years could be justified, from the point of view of an 18 year old, on the basis that it meant you got three years of the student lifestyle. If you didn't get a graduate-level job at the end of it, then at least it hadn't cost you all that much. This has changed now (and in a funny way, this is probably a good thing).

Whether the conventional wisdom will actually prove correct for students starting undergraduate degrees in September this year, I don't know. I suspect a maths degree will always make you more employable than a media studies one, but there's no reason to suspect that any portion of the graduate jobs market is immune to over-saturation.

As tends to get pointed out quite frequently, what we lack in the UK (and have lacked for decades now) is a network of decent technical colleges to prepare people for skilled non-academic jobs.

Re:Simpler explanation (2)

AtlanticCarbon (760109) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052049)

Yes, this is likely related to the economy and changing attitudes about education.

Some of these attitudes are becoming a bit extreme though. I've noticed snobbery and contempt for people who don't specialize in math or science. It may ultimately lead to a sense of entitlement for these science and math majors that goes unsatisfied. Already in the post-doc world and in academia we see signs of saturation. And the salaries in these fields aren't high enough to indicate dramatic unmet demand.

More and more I think the educational arms race is a bad thing. Most of these people will not end up doing rocket science at a desk somewhere. Perhaps the education will benefit society more indirectly but I think in many cases it may be a waste of time and money in the long run.

Re:Simpler explanation (3, Insightful)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052101)

Thank XXXX for that. So many A-Levels these days are in ridiculous subjects, thankfully the trend AWAY from Maths and Science is coming to an end.

In the UK the government went with a target (set on a EU level) of having 50% of the population in higher education (not realising the vocational side of things that is common in other European countries such as Germany that count towards this goal).

You end up with half the population with a degree is a useless subject and unemployable as you are "overqualified" for roles that do not require a degree.

You might not end up using Maths in your day to day job, but the logical mentality that it encourages is very useful in other aspects of life - even simple things like managing your budget.

We don't need thousands of Media Studies graduates with huge debt, we need Scientists, Entrepreneurs and many other roles that are currently being filled by imported labour. I can't remember the last time I saw an English plumber or electrician - those skills are needed here and the pay for those roles is ridiculously high in the UK compared to other countries (I know a plumber who makes the equivalent of USD 200k a year 5 years after getting his qualifications).

Anyway, rant over.

Re:Simpler explanation (5, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052481)

My younger sister, and some of my friends who were just starting university when I was just finishing, have science degrees from good (in several cases very good) universities, and are struggling to find appropriate jobs.

One has a degree in Biochemistry from Imperial, and was told last month by the Jobcentre staff that she'd have a better chance finding a job if she removed it from her CV! (She's had a succession of temporary jobs, boring office work etc, all with the promise of a permanent position at a later date, but that always seems to go to the less-qualified person who the company presumably assume will stick around for longer).

My sister found a job doing data entry for a company in her field (bio-somethingorother), hoping that would lead somewhere, but it hasn't.

I think there seem to be better opportunities elsewhere in the EEA, but people seem unwilling to move. I can understand that a little, but at 21 I thought it would be great to go and live in another country (I applied for a couple, but was offered a job in the UK within days of starting to look anyway).

Meanwhile, the place I work struggles to find computer science graduates, as we don't pay anywhere near enough to compete with the City, so we have to find idealists who really want to work for a charity, and they're rare.

Re:Simpler explanation (2)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052601)

Overqualification is a serious problem (I almost consider using the term a form of discrimination) and Jobcentres are (unfortunately) next to useless...

My best friend has a Biochem degree from Oxford - I would say Imperial is on par in terms of reputation.

He's currently teaching Biology at a private school in Kent and absolutely loving it.

Biochem, its more or less impossible to find anything related other than clerical work unless you go beyond a BSc. Most of the exciting stuff you need to be at Phd level.

It all comes down to balance, but with a good science/maths degree you should be able to get a job paying above national average salary from the word go if you're willing to consider something less related to your course, of course peoples expectations are way off from reality.

And CompSci - yes finance/startups seem to be a massive draw and idealists are not easy to find when the cost of a degree is climbing so fast. Good luck to your employer with the hunt and to your sister and her friends!

Re:Simpler explanation (2)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052629)

I think there seem to be better opportunities elsewhere in the EEA, but people seem unwilling to move.

Lack of personal mobility has been cited as one of, if not the most important, factor in regional and youth unemployment. I have a number of old friends and acquaintances who relocated to find work - usually to a large city within the same country, but sometimes further afield, to other continents, EU to/from US, to places like Dubai, Sri Lanka, Amsterdam, Germany etc. There are immigrants to the U.S. and U.K. who have left their friends and families, travelled hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles, in search of work. Once they arrive, they compete in a jobs market where they are at a distinct disadvantage as they are not native speakers of the host nation's language - and yet, they find work.

On the other hand, I know people who moan that there are no jobs in their tiny village in the middle of nowhere, but are at the same time refuse to even consider relocating, because that would mean changing their lifestyle. Instead, these people continue to receive money from the tax payer to live in their location of choice, despite the probability of finding a job there being low. The government should, as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits, require people located in areas of high unemployment to relocate if there are appropriate jobs elsewhere.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052681)

Mobility is a HUGE advantage in a job hunt.

Be it for employment or progression (rate of promotion has dropped off substantially in recent years for obvious reasons).

My brother is moving to Singapore in a few weeks - internal promotion at his firm.

I am currently considering a few roles in Moscow, HK and Singapore which would be financially much, much better than my current position - sometimes you need to take a risk and leave the comfortable (and repetitive) behind.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059543)

There's some problems with this. When you relocate far away like that, you lose your entire social support network: family, friends, etc. You're not even in your own culture any more, you're in an alien culture, so it's quite hard to make any new friends, and you can forget about having a marriage, kids, etc. What exactly is the draw for this? A big salary? A prestigious job? Science and engineering jobs don't pay that well. They're better than the average, at least until age discrimination hits at 40 and you're nearly unemployable, but they're nothing special. As someone else in this thread noted, a plumber in the UK gets the equivalent of USD$200k. Plumbers don't have to relocate to Singapore or Dubai to continue their career.

Basically it seems to me that education has gotten to be a scam; it's not going to get you into any really well-paying jobs, and the decent-paying jobs it'll get you into will require you to uproot yourself and move to foreign countries (and for EU residents, that means possibly outside the EU, into third-world countries like UAE), chasing for jobs that really don't pay all that well, in places where you're probably not going like to live. Don't forget, engineers tend to be pretty conservative personality types; they're not generally the kind of people who really love the idea of staying single and moving around and experiencing different cultures. And what's the point of all this work? So we can make a bunch of corporate executives extremely rich, while they get to live anywhere they like and take private jets when they need to travel anywhere.

Re:Simpler explanation (3, Interesting)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052723)

I live in London, so I know loads of people who've relocated -- many semi/unskilled young people from Southern or Eastern Europe, but also plenty of skilled workers from Northern and Western Europe, and transient workers from Australia, NZ, SA etc. Half the people I meet aren't British. Some Swedish friends told me last night that London is the fourth-largest city by Swedish population.

I haven't checked any statistics, but I wouldn't be surprised if British people are some of the least mobile in the EU.

(FWIW, my sister/friends etc have probably been on benefits for less than six months between them. They can get unskilled temporary jobs in offices easily enough (and do so).)

The government should, as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits, require people located in areas of high unemployment to relocate if there are appropriate jobs elsewhere.

Agreed. Wasn't the whole point of Jobseeker's allowance to fund things like train travel to job interviews? (I could be wrong, I never needed to sign on.)

Re:Simpler explanation (3, Informative)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052809)

5th city of france as well. Yesterday was at a barbecue in Sevenoaks (small commuter town, traditionally very, very English) - the people present were...

Swedish
Polish
German
Japanese
Russian

London and the surrounding area has become a very international place (always was, but has become much more so in recent decades.

Jobseeker's allowance is meant to fund those things as well, but try taking a train from, say, Yorkshire to London for an interview at short notice - you wouldn't be able to afford the ticket.

Think free travel to interviews is something that should be looked into. Jobseekers allowance just about covers food. Though housing allowance, exemption from council tax, etc... are very generous.

I think you're right on the British being the least mobile, major limitation is that English is taught very widely abroad, but the British rarely learn any foreign languages beyond a basic level and the typical language learned is French, which isn't very useful. German, Spanish, Mandarin - those would be good.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

Martin S. (98249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053743)

"Job Seekers" used to be entitled to a rail warrant under the Travel to Interview Scheme. This was closed to cut costs, which is rather counter-productive.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41054551)

Wasn't aware that this used to exist. Thanks for the info, something to push for again.

Problem is you'll have the extremely vocal "You're breaking up families!" crowd up in arms again.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

Martin S. (98249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41065467)

The scheme ended in December as part of austerity measures.

If a job seeker is getting interviews they are doing, sucessfully, what is expected of them. It is plainly stupid to block them getting a job, stop needing benefit and start paying tax to save a few tens of quid on a travel expenses.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053767)

I'd agree the economy should be one component, but also the U.K. has been making the A levels easier and easier. I've found that U.K. math majors were amongst the weakest math students I've ever taught. And so so many unqualified MSc students doing mathematics.

Re:Simpler explanation (2)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052697)

We don't need thousands of Media Studies graduates with huge debt, we need Scientists, Entrepreneurs and many other roles that are currently being filled by imported labour.

The problem is that 17 year olds generally have no idea what skills are in demand in the workplace. Perhaps every university should be required to write a letter to each prospective student, informing them of the ratio of graduates from that university with that particular degree in the last 5 years who are employed/unemployed, and the median salary. The letter could also point out similar degrees with better prospects. That way student choice would be retained, but it would be more informed. Alternatively, we could go the China route, and only fund the top % of students to study in-demand degrees, and consign everyone else to a lifetime of manual labour (gaokao: [wsj.com] for poor households, the 30 percent of China’s population living on less than $2 a day, the gaokao is like a lottery ticket — but one whose rewards come not by chance, but through blood, sweat, tears and toil. For them, gaokao doesn’t translate as “high exam,” it translates as “test you must ace so your life won’t suck.").

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052847)

Parents should also be guiding kids on this.

My parents were very supportive (thankfully) - offered me a variety of choices, and got me SERIOUSLY thinking about my future at a very early age.

It needs to go beyond "what do you want to be when you grow up?" when the kid's barely able to understand what that means. It means thinking about what the best risk/reward would be. Balancing the cost of a dergree against potential earnings. Things like quality of life also need to be factored in.

I was lucky with my parents, as was my brother. We are both in jobs (very different) where we work long hours and work hard. We earn good money and are investing in our futures.

The mentality of "gimme!" needs to go. Parents need to do a better job instead of just relying on the government, though Labour encouraged this dependece.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059703)

I completely disagree about parents. Unless your parents are in your field of interest, they don't have a fucking clue about what fields are good and which aren't. If your parents are not college-educated, it's even worse. I'm an embedded software engineer; my mom is always encouraging me to apply to jobs I have zero experience in, just because they involve computers in some way. She thinks I can do anything that has anything remotely to do with computers.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058399)

Perhaps every university should be required to write a letter to each prospective student, informing them of the ratio of graduates from that university with that particular degree in the last 5 years who are employed/unemployed, and the median salary

University league tables have this information. When I was looking at universities over a decade ago they showed both the average salary of graduates and the percentage that had a job within a year of graduating. This information is still published.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#41060101)

Perhaps every university should be required to write a letter to each prospective student, informing them of the ratio of graduates from that university with that particular degree in the last 5 years who are employed/unemployed, and the median salary.

What? A personalized letter? Delivered by the mail? I'm pretty sure there's a more efficient and affordable method of disseminating information.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052865)

Media studies... pah. You can get a degree in Facebook [telegraph.co.uk] today. How about that for the ultimate in uselessness.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41054739)

Will be redundant by the time you finish your degree, awesome!

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41056871)

hence the point about teaching students fundamental computing principles rather than how to use whatever technology is currently in use.

A lot of students came out of University knowing C, when the industry moved to Java. Then they came out knowing Java, when the industry had moved on to C#. Now students might be coming out knowing C# when Microsoft is moving back to C++. This is what happens if you let the short-term minds of our industry try to influence how students are taught.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053115)

We need all of those media people, too. The UK entertainment industry is as big a contributor to the economy as finance is, and tourism -- which, frankly is all about media -- is a decent chunk of the economy too. Just because it's a sector of the economy that appeals to geeks (except when it's making superhero or sci-fi movies) but it certainly matters to the accountants.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052991)

Yes, this is likely related to the economy and changing attitudes about education.

I'd argue there is an even simpler explanation - popular culture has shifted. Reality TV and the "media studies" degrees it fuelled are no longer cool. Instead, the people who appear on reality TV shows are increasingly seen as losers; the new cool is startups and app stores, the young crowd hear stories of the people who became app store millionaires in 6 months, and dream of being the next Zuckerberg. I predict that this new wave of enthusiasm for computing won't last; we saw this cycle before with the .com millionaires, everyone wanted to be in the industry, but at some point the river of money begins to dry up and something else becomes the new cool.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053689)

There aren't merely "signs of saturation" in academia. Academia was already fully saturated in the mid 70s. We've actually been shrinking the academic job market for the last decade using adjuncts.

In fact, we've recently started shrinking it by creating really good online courses. There are open courseware guys at MIT who suggest there should only be 6 real universities within 20 years. In other words, all professors not at elite institutions like MIT and Stanford should become TAs who help the students do exercises, but all students would watch video lectures by elite professors. It'll probably happen more-or-less that way, except with an awful lot more AI.

Re:Simpler explanation (1, Interesting)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052085)

Whether the conventional wisdom will actually prove correct for students starting undergraduate degrees in September this year, I don't know. I suspect a maths degree will always make you more employable than a media studies one, but there's no reason to suspect that any portion of the graduate jobs market is immune to over-saturation.

I think the falacy in the conventional wisdom is that somehow a university education is sufficient to prepare an arbitrary student for a graduate-level job at the end. In my opinion, some people just have an affinity towards math and science (similar to affinity that some folks have to the arts, or others have for business) that makes it an intangible element that makes all the difference that no university education can create.

Somehow I doubt a large increase in enrollment is reflective of an equivalently large number of untapped potential in the student population, but a foreshadowing of a bunch of potential drop-outs and/or mediocre graduates that will be released into the job market in a few years. Whether or not they can be absorbed depends if the economy is booming or not. I hope these prospective math and science students will be doing some serious self instrospection about what they are getting themselves into.

I have always felt that one should take inventory of your skills and select an appropriate course of study with a high potential of success (rather than chase the money and play the generic odds)... That doesn't mean follow your heart (as some would advocate), but follow your head, and not the whims of tradewinds...

Worth examining the evidence or offering more (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052165)

You provide a possible explanation - I am sure there's some truth in the belief that students are more discerning now it costs much more to study. However the IOP and others have provided some evidence for their argument [stimulatingphysics.org] so we should at least consider it. Definitely it would be interesting to hear if you've come across research into students' attitudes towards their choice of university courses.

Re:Simpler explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052289)

So, what you are saying is that the UK education system is turning into the Indian education system?
I had hoped the reverse would have happened :(

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052683)

You hoped that the UK would become lazy uneducated slobs?

Re:Simpler explanation (3, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052383)

The amount of debt that students in England and Wales will likely need to take on

The amount of what in Wales?

The Welsh assembly 100% subsidises university fees for their students (paid of course from English taxes!).

Re:Simpler explanation (5, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052493)

I think there's probably quite a simple explanation for this. The amount of debt that students in England and Wales will likely need to take on (barring rich parents) to pay for a degree has risen significantly from this year (not quite at US levels yet, but getting much closer).

I've read that many potential students don't understand one very important difference between the American-style student debt and the English/Welsh version: in England/Wales the interest rate is low, and you don't have to pay back the debt until you earn over a certain amount (£15.7k), and the repayment amount is fixed (9% of income over £15.7k). The debt doesn't count on a credit score either.

It's somewhere between a debt and a graduate tax.

Re:Simpler explanation (2)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052883)

The thresholds are actually being raised quite a bit, this is before

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/StudentFinance/Gettingstarted/DG_199403

and this is after

http://www.studentloanrepayment.co.uk/portal/page?_pageid=93,6678784&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

But yes, very, very different to the US. Graduate tax is a good way of putting it.

Re:Simpler explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052995)

If potential students can't understand that you get inflation-rate loans for Uni (and that means the loans don't get bigger over time), probably shouldn't be going to Uni. Of if they are, they should probably study sociology or something.

Re:Simpler explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052529)

It used to be that taking a gap year to bum around was quite common as well. When you can see the interest fees building on a student loan getting into a job is the first priority. At this rate the uk will have a generation of graduates with a strong work ethic and serious degree qualifications. What's next, national service for the non-qualified and proper trade qualifications and trade apprenticeships for the rest. It's madness I tell you madness. At this rate we might be able to pay off the banking system deficit and the pensions gap in fewer than three generations.

Re:Simpler explanation (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41057511)

The perception now is that if you want to go from university into a "good" job, then you need either a science degree,[...]

Yes, this is a much more likely explanation than TFA's claim, given without any evidence, that the cause of the higher enrollments is "better science teaching" or that "science has become cool again."

In addition to making bogus assumptions about the cause of the increase, there is a likely tendency to make bogus assumptions about its effects. In particular, you might think that higher enrollments would lead to more people succeeding in getting science degrees and then landing jobs in which they use what they learned. I teach physics at a community college in the US, and many of my students are clearly not capable of succeeding in STEM; they're just in a STEM major because they perceive it as being a track to a good job, regardless of their lack of talent, preparation, or willingness to study.

Yet another incorrect assumption that many people make is that there is a shortage of workers with STEM degrees. Any employer who can't find someone to fill a position requiring a STEM degree is having that problem based on how much they're paying for that position. If they keep offering more and more money, I guarantee you that at some point they will start getting qualified applicants. This is the same fallacy we see in many other fields with claimed shortages of workers, from agricultural work to programming.

Why couldn't this be happening here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052007)

Would it be socialist to give this great a damn about our own public school students? Our local governments drain educational budgets for their own salaries' sakes. So irritating.

Re:Why couldn't this be happening here? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059733)

You socialist! We need to embrace free-market principles and drastically increase the salaries for local government administrators, while cutting teacher salaries.

Hope (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052019)

I do hope they can keep improving. Demand for skilled workers, especially in the USA, is still outstripping supply and this is a good first step in helping to rectify the situation.
(Yeah, I know that this report is from the UK and I wrote "especially in USA" but US companies can, will and already do import talent from outside of the USA.)

Re:Hope (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052127)

Demand for cheap labour visas, especially in the USA, is still outstripping supply

FTFY.

Re:Hope (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052757)

Demand for skilled workers, especially in the USA, is still outstripping supply

At $7.25/hr part time no benefits under two years experience need not apply, over 30 years old need not apply.

For all other situations, not so good.

Re:Hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41053779)

By skilled meaning senior engineers and staff with 5+ years experience. The entry level stuff is almost non-existant.

Probably due to.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052041)

the influx of asians through immigration

If truth = hate, so be it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052885)

Remember the joke about the 2 MP's?

English MP: "I am an Englishman!"

Scots MP: "Have you any ambition?"

It appears that the more different one appears and/or more different one lives from the surrounding population, the more ambition is required to overcome whatever discrimination exists or is perceived to exist. However, this fails in the case of sub-Saharan Africans and First Australians. Is it that for these groups their culture having become so closely bound to phenotype (race) that to criticize the former is to criticize the latter?

The issue is that every time these look in the mirror, despite what their paperwork says, they are reminded as to their origins. This sets up cognitive dissonance and subconscious conflict that have no place in employment in any sector with even a remote connection (pun not intended) to national security. The pork munching, ale-swilling football hooligans are not going to foul their own nests by engaging in acts of terrorism.

Non-whites destroy white societies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052175)

I wonder how many black 'youths' are going to become future engineers and mathematicians?

Still, I don't suppose it matters if non-whites become a majority in our countries, they'll be falling all over themselves to give us 'special rights', right?

Re:Non-whites destroy white societies (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052537)

Modded down for telling the TRUTH.

Non-whites destroy white societies.

Re:Non-whites destroy white societies (1)

jareth-0205 (525594) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053253)

Actually, modded down because you're a dick.

minu5 5, Troll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052203)

BE NIGGER! BE GAY! she had no fear Fo8 the record, I

Trendy (5, Insightful)

PeterAitch (920670) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052241)

There are many reasons which may have conflated to produce this result. I moved out of research 20 years ago and have been teaching physics in UK schools ever since, so I have seen various trends during that time.

Physics has always been perceived as hard (especially by girls) and considered geeky. Most of my students have either been out-and-out geeks or those aspiring to medicine/dentistry. A few have shifted into numerate careers (e.g. actuary, accountancy) and several into teaching.

Mostly pupils are interested in the sexier aspects - astrophysics or relativity or quantum theory, rather than mechanics or thermodynamics. Of course, at school level the really hard stuff doesn't kick in but it is still quite challenging for the vast majority of students.

A few years ago maths at A-level in the UK was made significantly easier (this is well-documented elsewhere) and took a lot of students who were considering doing physics as a "hard" option in order to go to medical school. To some extent this is still the case, but more people are doing physics as well. Why?

The courses feeding into A-level have been made easier - this gives people the [misleading] impression that they can cope with physics - and increases the course drop-out rate! Also, it is very valuable for entry on to competitive courses in good universities, but only if you get the top grades. Finally - and perhaps most importantly - it is seen as interesting, thanks to the influence of ambassadors such as Brian Cox (who has over 0.75 million followers on Twitter) and the well-reported recent events at CERN.

It will be fascinating to see how this develops - will the courses be "dumbed-down" (probably not, in the current political and economic climate). Will people realise that physicists are not necessarily directly employable? (I currently know two Ph.D.s who are still working as painters and decorators, several years on). Will the love affair with media science die away? (Again - it was last seen during the Moon landings and yours truly got sucked in as a boy...)

Re:Trendy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052661)

When taught mathematics there in the UK, do the students learn about axioms and proofs? If so, at what age are they taught them? Because here in America, it seems ignored to an extent, not really shoved down our throats until college. It's my opinion that half the work in mathematics should be proof-orientated (as opposed to rote memorization and such) even if it means being taught less material in a given subject.

Mathematics and science really can't be separated even if they are different subjects.

By the way, do you know what the article means by two teacher support scheme? I have an assumption, but I really shouldn't assume.

If there is an excess number of those who have STEM degrees, is it a big deal that some are working on non-STEM related work? Who knows if they are using it for hobby reasons, but it helps having intellectuals around to counter "dumbness" when it comes up. It's probably the little things, and I don't have examples, and I realize that hurts my argument. The only thing I can say is if math/science is logic, then it probably helps to have a logical mind when doing anything.

Re:Trendy (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052913)

A-Level is still a bit simplistic (even Further Maths) - you get some basic proofs of calculus, but thats about it (the course is actually quite varied so it depends on what Modules you take - you need to do a minimum amound of "Pure"/Core and then either Statistics or Mechanics).

Mechanics is more applied maths within Physics and Stats is, well, stats...

At my school there was a lot of focus on that well beyond the syllabus, the teachers were young and loved the subject, enthusiasm is contagious. Went off on tangents constantly about proofs they found interesting, etc...

Re:Trendy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052735)

Jobs for those with degrees, masters or PHD in physics.??

  Everything.

From banking, construction, engineering, ICT, essentially all technology, anything to do with numbers or handling data, anything to do with statistics, anything to do with problem solving. Every single field I've drifted into have found my skills invaluable.

Don't think Fermi could have been useful other than a physicist? Newton seemed to earn money doing numerous other jobs, as have many other physicists.

  I don't know what sort of physicists you guys know, but every single one graduate of my physics course (which is now shut down) have been in demand. In fact I've employed 5 of the 20 or so graduates that the program produced (over 10 years before being shut down).

PhD's tend to be less flexible being more specialised, but I would imagine would still be useful. Anything in Chemistry or Biology has at its core physics. Any device or technology in these fields also have at its core, physics. Hence why so many many physicists have won awards including nobel prizes in chemistry and biology in almost every major development (radioactivity, DNA, protons etc).

  PHD is physics isn't the point. If Chemists and Biologists had a better understanding of physics then they would be better chemists and biologists and not just robots that put things into black boxes and hope they get told an answer from a machine they don't understand how it works. (NMR, XRD, SEM, etc etc).

  Imagine engineers that had a solid understanding of material science. Engineers that understand how a PNP/NPN transistor, or a superconductor works, and not just simply apply and answer textbook questions because they are flat out just getting through the basics at uni. Imagine a population that understands the basics of the universe and a real science. Why the LHC is important, where energy comes from.

  Rutherford said it best. Science is physics, everything else is stamp collecting. Mighty words for someone who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry...

Re:Trendy (1)

PeterAitch (920670) | more than 2 years ago | (#41054187)

Newton seemed to earn money doing numerous other jobs, as have many other physicists.

Indeed - perhaps I wasn't clear. Anyone seeking work straight from University should have an edge. There are still some prejudices out there (e.g. "Physicists can't write and don't have social skills) but the numeracy/problem-solving card usually trumps those. Having said that, those who start on a "physics" career may find it harder to change direction later. They often seem to end up in a series of short-term posts (been there, done that). Those who hold out for "real" jobs in their chosen field may find themselves effectively unemployable or doing casual jobs (the decorators previously quoted are two such examples).

Lots of interesting articles out there at the moment from current graduate students who are struggling with these issues, hashtag #PhDelta for openers.

Incidentally, Newton would not have been my exemplar. His get-rich-quick schemes included occult alchemy (which was highly illegal and potentially punishable by execution) and his position as Master of the Royal Mint was obtained through patronage, as was usual at the time. He acquitted himself superbly, though, unlike his foray into politics, which sounds disastrous.

mod 0p (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41052301)

Are just way over And the striking ~280MB MPEG off of BSD fanatics? I'vMe exploited that. A reformatted wall: *BSD faces a

In other news... (0)

dohzer (867770) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052331)

Intake for Science and Math Graduates Reach New Low In UK

science and math (1)

jessicasmith23 (2711453) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052367)

Science and math is really important in our everyday lives. No wonder people should study this subject and focus for the more development and productive country.

Re:science and math (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052755)

Sadly I can't agree. It's not "important" as lots of people seem to get by, some even do well with very little science or maths. Lots of people have fantastic mental arithmetic; but never use it beyond a game of darts or gambling.
It should be important in our everyday lives. I can't disagree with that. If people had an understanding of what science strives for, when they read bullshit news paper lies they'd question the print.

Rock-star scientists (3, Insightful)

leastsquares (39359) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052435)

I think this trend has more to do with Brian Cox [wikipedia.org] than any government initiative.

Re:Rock-star scientists (1)

mister_dave (1613441) | more than 2 years ago | (#41057391)

Perhaps not [iop.org] .

Last year, many accredited the success to cultural influences, such as the “Brian Cox effect”.

New data, however, suggest a network designed to help science teachers inspire students with the wonder of physics, called the Stimulating Physics Network (SPN) [stimulatingphysics.org] , has played a major part in translating this nascent inspiration into A-level entries.

more science and math, fewer computing (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41052889)

What is surprising to me though is that Computing classes are not in the list of "hard" subjects being taken up in increasing numbers. This year, computing is falling [zdnet.com] .

Maybe no-one wants a computing career, long hours, bad colleagues, constant re-learning crap that's itself obsoleted a couple of years later.

Lets hope the raspberry pi does something, or in a decade everything will be outsourced.

Re:more science and math, fewer computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41053565)

Even if you have a computer science degree, you would not be considered to have the mathematics skills required to do these high-paying jobs in the financial industry. Many computer science courses only briefly touched mathematics with statistics. I learned more in SYS high-school chemistry (reaction-diffusion equations) and physics (Keplers laws of motion, thermodynamics), that was ever covered in the final years of my university course.

To design and develop parallel processing simulations on OpenCL and CUDA, knowledge of advanced mathematics is fundamental. Most post-doc research positions in these fields require Physics/Mathematics degrees, not Computer Science ones.

Coffeeology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41053197)

That's because they cut all of the horseshit degrees like coffee technology, dance with art history and Virginia Woolf studies.

LHC causing it? (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#41053531)

A growing fascination with science and teacher support schemes seem to be improving the teaching of maths and physics in UK state schools.

Initiatives are nice, but I suspect the students are drawn to physics in particular because they see billions on dollars/pounds being spend on the LHC and either thinks it's cool and want to understand whats really going on there, or they see the money. Others will not the rise in interest at the time of their "initiative" and say they caused it. Seems like a survey of the students could help clarify this.

Re:LHC causing it? (1)

mister_dave (1613441) | more than 2 years ago | (#41057449)

The gizmos on CSI are pretty cool too. :-)

Demographical and other local Effects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41054465)

The article does not provide enough information to interpret the numbers. However, it looks like, that a) the discussions on study fees in the UK fueled some movement in study fields, b) the non economics topics were at an all time low, and since we life in a financial crisis time, those topics declined in popularity, c) there could be a long running wave of a pork cycle.

Snakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41054807)

It would have been nice if the title had been "Science and Maths ...." given it's a UK story. But I guess fighting against the rising tide of American English won't stop me from drowning.

Re:Snakes! (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | more than 2 years ago | (#41055995)

Yeah, because saying "I am taking some Maths Subjects" sounds like you are very educated opposed to those dumb colonists.

Laugh (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#41057505)

It's all the Indian immigrants.

rise of "proper subjects" (1)

Ginger_Chris (1068390) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059177)

As a physics teacher in a standard comprehensive school in the UK, I've seen a massive rise in students choosing physics in maths recently. A few years ago very few were choosing it as it was so much harder that 'travel and tourism' or sociology and got effectively the same qualification. The schools also promoted easier courses as it massively bumped up their pass figures. Whereas now, with the changing job climate, lots of them are realising that not all A-levels were created equally and their job prospects rise dramatically doing sciences and maths (they still aren't great but they are much, much, much better).

It's enrolment NOT enrollment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41063205)

Since when was enrolment spelt with two L's? Hard to take this subject seriously with such a glaring spelling mistake...

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