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STEM Subjects: Higher Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL8391, tabled on 22 September 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to increase the diversity of students taking STEM subjects at university.

Answered on

6 October 2020

Studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects has an economic benefit for individual students as well as society at large. Ensuring that anyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to pursue a career in these areas is a priority for this government.

We have undertaken a behaviourial insight trial of 11,000 pupils to gain a better understanding of why there is a low participation of female students in STEM subjects and to identify the best ways to redress this.

In mathematics, we have invested £76 million in the Teaching for Mastery programme. This programme aims to reach 11,000 schools across England by 2023 and equip all young people, regardless of their background, with the mathematical knowledge and skills they will need for employment, further study, and everyday life. This is further supported by our Advanced Maths Support programme, which aims to increase participation in the post-16 study of mathematics, with a specific focus on the participation of girls and disadvantaged pupils.

In science, we have committed funding to the Stimulating Physics Network to improve the teaching of science for all pupils. This includes a specific programme to improve gender balance. We have also developed the Isaac Physics online learning platform to improve GCSE and A level physics students' attainment, and to increase the numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who choose to study physics at university.

In September 2020 we introduced T levels, new post-16 technical programmes which have been designed to give all young people a high-quality route to skilled employment and higher technical training such as degree apprenticeships, including for key STEM-related subjects.

Universities and other higher education providers wishing to charge higher levels fees must have an access and participation plan agreed by the regulator, the Office for Students. Through these plans, universities set out how they will support students from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented groups to access and successfully participate in higher education.

We will continue to invest to in all stages of education to ensure that people with an interest in, and talent for, STEM courses are able to pursue them at university if they wish to do so.