The number of applications accepted to study general engineering at university and college in 2012 is up 15.7% on 2011, but most engineering and science degrees have accepted fewer students than in 2011.
General engineering has proved a popular degree subject in the UK in 2012 while more specific subjects related to engineering were less popular.
Figures published on Thursday by UCAS, the body that monitors university and college admissions for degrees, show that 14 of 20 physical science degrees had fewer applications accepted than in 2011.
The fall in applications is being attributed to higher university tuition fees, which now average £8,400 per year.
General engineering was the only subject among the ‘hard sciences’ where places increased by double figures – 15.7% – compared with 2011. University places in physics rose 6.2% and places in chemical, process and energy engineering increased by 4%.
But there was a fall in the accepted applications for most science subjects relevant to careers in manufacturing and engineering.
Five subjects fell by double figures with the biggest mover, computer science, falling by 15%. This is surprising given that computer networking giant Cisco said in November that there are 100,000 skilled IT positions in Europe unfulfilled today due to lack of skills.
“Other degrees in technology” fell by 12.9%, civil engineering fell by 12%, and production and manufacturing engineering, electrical and electronic engineering and combination degrees in computer science all fell heavily.
Aerospace engineering fell by 4.3% despite a bumper year for aircraft manufacturers. In 2012, industry body ADS and the government formed the Aerospace Growth Partnership and the government provided funding for 60 Masters courses in aerospace engineering, announced in July by the prime minister.
By contrast, anthropology (1,052 places) had the highest increase in course places offered and other non-engineering subjects like nursing, up 20%, and molecular biology, up 12.3%, proved popular with students.
The number of applications accepted to study mechanical engineering rose by just 2.6% to 6,514, despite the huge push of public relations activity in recent years to make people more aware of the value of – and demand for – engineering degrees.
“Now we have the final UCAS statistics for the end of 2012 cycle, there is real concern that overall numbers have fallen,” said Paul Jackson, CEO of EngineeringUK, the organisation charged with encouraging more young people to work in engineering.
“There are positives to be found for engineering subjects, as the number of accepted applicants fell by only 1.65% compared to the average 5.5% overall fall at a time of dramatic change,” he added. “However, before we celebrate too much – there is a considerable skills gap that needs to filled and we would really like to see sustained growth in the numbers of applications.”
The total number of applicants for degrees in 2012 dropped by 6.6% to 653,600.
Within the UCAS cycle for 2012, there were 464,900 acceptances for full-time UK undergraduate higher education, 27,100 fewer than in 2011. However, because deferral patterns were disrupted in 2011, 53,900 fewer students started their studies in 2012.
188,700 applicants were unplaced at the end of the cycle – a fall of 9.3% on 2011. The numbers suggest that, rather than the university system being more efficient at placing applicants, there are simply fewer people applying for degrees.
UCAS chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said: “The headline numbers in this report signal the challenging environment for recruitment in 2012 for some parts of UK higher education.”
The overall acceptance rate (the proportion of all applicants who were placed) increased by almost one percentage point to 71.1%.
But UCAS says this increase was not enough to offset the decrease in total applications.
Click here for the table of engineering and physical sciences degree places in 2012.
Some key findings in the report include:
• More 18-year olds entered higher education through preferred choice routes in 2012. Proportionately fewer were recruited through their insurance choice or Clearing.
• Compared to the 2011-12 academic year, UK and EU acceptances into the 2012-13 academic year fell by 7,300 (-7 per cent) in higher tariff institutions; by 15,500 (-11 per cent) in ‘medium tariff institutions’*; and 30,500 (-14 per cent) in ‘lower tariff institutions’*.
• In English institutions, restrictions on the recruitment of students with high grades (AAB+ at A level or equivalent) were removed for many courses.
• Among UK domiciled 18-year olds, women were a third more likely to enter higher education than men. Women are more likely to enter higher education than men are to apply.
• The average tuition fee for UK and EU acceptances at English institutions in 2012 was £8,389 (excluding fee waivers).
See here for the full list of degree course acceptances in 2012.