Successive UK governments have long harped on about the importance of STEM
(Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects and quite rightly so. Has
all this talk amounted to much? Well, it seems not. New research shows that
people feel less informed about science now than they did three years ago –
despite there being a steady increase in public interest in science over the
last decade or so. Furthermore, our universities still struggle to convert this
apparent public interest in science into significantly higher numbers of new
students applying for STEM degree courses – a situation we must turn around if
the fortunes of UK Plc., are to improve.
Science Minister, David Willets announced on Monday (it seems that not all public servants take the public holidays off) that the government is going to throw £13 million of our science budget at outreach in schools and public engagement, together with another £6.3m support for STEMNET (an initiative that “helps young people understand the amazing range of careers that can come from studying these subjects” says Willets). OK but why don’t we back-up that money by ensuring that our £300 million of National
Scholarship Programme funds over the three years from 2012-15 are weighted
heavily in favour of STEM student programmes? And how about weighting student
grants towards STEM subjects? If public interest is not being converted into
public study, incentivise.