Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence



  Sources that are relevant include:

  1.  Connor H, Burton R, Pearson R, Pollard E and Regan, J (1999) "Making the Right Choice. How Students Choose Universities and Colleges". Institute for Employment Studies, UUK.

  Social studies attracts a higher proportion of older people (over 21) than physical sciences or humanities. By gender, women now form the majority share of total applications via UCAS to full time courses, but they are still seriously under represented in engineering/technology (only 12% are women).

  The study found that the right course is the most important criterion guiding aspiring students' choice of where to study. This is endorsed by other research, eg UNITE/MORI 2004, YCS HE module cohort 10 sweep 2, Connor et al 2001b and Davies et al 2002.

  Those applicants who preferred science subjects rather than the arts or social sciences were more inclined to cite research reputation and employment prospects as more important factors in their choice of institution.

  2.  Connor H, Pearson R, Pollard E, Tyers C and Willison R, (2001a) "The Right Choice?": a follow-up to "Making the Right Choice" Institute for Employment Studies, UUK.

  The study found familiar patterns of subject participation by various characteristics. Science/engineering/technology courses were more popular among; males, younger students, Asian students and those coming from comprehensive schools.

  The study found few apparent differences in choice of subject according to whether the applicants had familial experience of HE.

  3.  Connor H, and Dewson S, with Tyers, C, Eccles, J, Regan J, and Aston, J, (2001b) "Social Class and Higher Education: Issues Affecting Participation by Lower Social Class groups" DfEE Research Report No 246.

  This report found that current full-time students had chosen their subject or course mainly out of interest but also for career reasons (and that there was little difference by social class in the reasons given).

  4.  Davies P, Osborne M, and Williams J, (2002) "For me or not for me—that is the question. A study of mature students' decision-making and higher education" DfES Research Report 297.

  This report found that over two thirds of potential mature entrants said that their choice of HEI was influenced by the structure/mode of study/timetabling of the course.

  5.  Dearing Report 2, (1997) "Students motives aspirations and choices".

  The report found that the most cited reason as to why students had chosen their course was because they liked it and the subjects it covered. However this reason was given a lot more by full-time as opposed to part-time students.

  Students' reasons for choosing their course were grouped into four distinct categories:

    (i)  Intellectual—related primarily to their intrinsic interest in the course, the subjects covered, and the academic standing of the course and institution;

    (ii)  Pragmatic—related principally to practical issues such as the part-time structure of the course, proximity to home, etc;

    (iii)  Instrumental—associated with the outcomes of the course and especially, students' longer term job and career prospects;

    (iv)  Fatalistic—related to negative reasons such as being the only place offered.

  The report found that the majority of full time students opted for their course for predominantly intellectual reasons. Part time students were more mixed in their response, but were mostly pragmatic.

  6.  Callender C, (2003) "Attitudes to debt, School leavers' and further education students' attitudes to debt and their impact on participation in higher education" UUK.

  Callender (2003) found that amongst potential entrants the costs of going to university led half to apply to universities nearer their homes and nearly two-fifths were taking a subject with better employment prospects.

  7.  Mason G, (1999), "The Labour Market for Engineering Science and IT Graduates: Are there Mismatches between Supply and Demand?" DFEE Research Report 112.

  This report draws on interviews conducted with sixth form students, which suggests that one reason for the low take up of SET subjects is due to their poor "image", with opinions of certain occupations conforming to well known stereotypes.

  8.  Brooks R, (2002), "Edinburgh, Exeter, East London—or Unemployment? A review of young people's higher education choices", Educational Research, Vol 44, No 2, pp217-227.

  This article concludes that young people's access to and interpretation of information is often patterned by their gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. It therefore recommends that research needs to be moved beyond absorption of information to look at the construction of socially differentiated dispositions to HE.

  9.  Brennan J, et al, (1999), "Part—Time Students and Employment: Report of a Survey of Students, Graduates and Diplomates".—final.doc

  This study of part-time students found that 32% of those identified as being most career orientated in their studies chose engineering, technology or building courses. It also found within their sample that slightly more females studied sciences, (due to the presence of subjects allied to medicine within this category) whilst a much higher proportion of males followed courses in engineering, technology and building.


  10.  UK Secondary Pupils' Perceptions of Science and Engineering—Project Reference 6201.

  This project aims to identify the key issues involved in young people's decision making processes when choosing further study and careers;

  as part of this overarching aim it will identify key issues regarding the decrease of young people opting to study science and engineering post compulsory schooling.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 11 April 2005