UCL News


Make, do and mend

19 September 2006

A report from Universities UK (UUK) has found that students are shunning engineering degrees in favour of subjects allied to medicine and mass communication.

Engineering and technology has seen the second slowest growth in student numbers, stagnating at around a 4% rise over the 10 years from 1995 to 2005 - and well below the average growth of 56%. …

At UCL, the stagnation in applications for engineering mirrors the report's findings. But, says Dr Marco Federighi, Sub-Dean of UCL Engineering Sciences, responsible for student admissions, the problem is not limited to the UK: "Europe, the US and China are also struggling to attract students into the subject. Law and business are more attractive."

Federighi says that students' concerns over their future employment opportunities have affected their choice of subject. "Engineering is often associated with manufacturing, and the industry has been moving away from the west. Students see big employers moving and it affects their choices."

UCL has redesigned its degree programmes to make them more relevant to a wider range of careers, and has changed its admissions policy to accept students with A-levels in subjects other than maths and physics, to try to attract more applicants.

"Students see engineering degree programmes at research-led institutions as being too narrow," says Federighi. "They think they are designed for people who will go on to do PhDs and work in research. But the vast majority of our graduates go on to work in management or in the City."

UCL began to roll out the new measures three years ago. "The first results are encouraging. Student numbers are up and there are an increasing number of applicants with better A-level grades. Engineering is traditionally a male-dominated subject, but we are also seeing more applications from women." …

Natasha Gilbert, 'The Guardian'