Higher Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects - Science and Technology Committee Contents


The House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee I, under the chairmanship of Lord Willis of Knaresborough, are conducting an inquiry into higher education in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).


A healthy science base and a supply of suitably trained STEM graduates are vital for our economy to enable the UK to do well as a nation. STEM graduates are required both to allow the country to address scientific problems such as climate change and responding to global pandemics, and also to provide high level numeracy and quantitative skills for industries such as the financial services and the civil service. A very wide range of business groups and government view the supply of STEM graduates as a key part of economic growth and UK competitiveness.

Nevertheless, university recruitment to some STEM subject areas continues to prove a major challenge, so much so that most STEM subjects are identified as "strategically important and vulnerable subjects". Industry continues to report shortages of STEM graduates in some areas and yet at the same time a substantial proportion of STEM graduates end up working in jobs that do not require a STEM degree. The focus of this inquiry is to explore the reasons for this mismatch and how to ensure that the UK is producing a sufficient supply of STEM graduates to meet all its needs. The deadline for written evidence submissions is Friday, 16 December 2011.


The Committee invite submissions on the following points and also on the combined effect that these issues have or will have on the provision of higher education in STEM subjects:

General questions

  • What is the definition of a STEM subject, and a STEM job?
  • Do we understand demand for STEM graduates and how this could be used to influence supply?

16-18 supply

  • Are schools and colleges supplying the right numbers of STEM students and do they have the right skills to study STEM first degrees?
  • What have been the effects of earlier government initiatives on the uptake of STEM subjects at advanced level?
  • What effect, if any, will the English Baccalaureate have on the study of STEM subjects in higher education?

Graduate supply

  • Is the current number of STEM students and graduates (from the UK, EU and overseas) sufficient to meet the needs of industry, the research base, and other sectors not directly connected with STEM?
  • Is the quality of STEM graduates emerging from higher education sufficiently high, and if not ,why not?
  • Do STEM graduates have the right skills for their next career move, be it research, industry or more broadly within the economy?
  • What effect will higher education reforms have on the quality of teaching, the quality of degrees and the supply of STEM courses in higher education institutions?
  • What effect does "research assessment" have upon the ability to develop new and cross-disciplinary STEM degrees?
  • What is the relationship between teaching and research? Is it necessary for all universities to teach undergraduates and post graduates and conduct research? What other delivery model should be considered?
  • Does the UK have a sufficient geographical spread of higher education institutions offering STEM courses?
  • What is being done and what ought to be done to increase the diversity of STEM graduates in terms of gender, ethnic origin and socio-economic background?

Post-graduate supply

  • Is the current training of PhD students sensitive to the range of careers they subsequently undertake?
  • Are we currently supporting the right number of PhD studentships to maintain the research base and are they of sufficient quality?
  • What impact have Doctoral Training Centres had on the quality and number of PhD students? Are there alternative delivery models?
  • Should state funding be used to promote Masters degrees and is the balance right between the number of Masters degree students and PhD students?
  • What impact will higher education reforms have on the willingness of graduates to pursue a research career?


  • What incentives should industry offer to STEM graduates in order to attract them?
  • What steps are industry and universities taking together to ensure that demand for STEM graduates matches supply in terms of numbers, skills and quality of graduates?

International comparisons

  • What lessons can be learnt from the provision of higher education in STEM subjects in other countries? Which countries provide the most helpful examples of best practice?

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