75% of public say STEM degrees are essential to boosting economy

Posted on 10 May 2013

The public wants more government support for students taking on science, technology, engineering and maths degrees, according to a new poll from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Of the 2,000 members of the public surveyed, 75% said that increasing the supply of science and engineering professionals is essential to the economic wellbeing of the UK, with 72% saying that boosting the UK’s engineering, manufacturing and science sectors would help bring the UK out of recession.

There was also strong backing for the Government to provide more support for STEM students, with 59% saying that they would back proposals for Government to contribute £5,000 each year towards tuition fees for UK students taking STEM degrees. This compares with just 11% who would disagree.

The results follow the announcement in the Queen Speech yesterday that Government is to take steps to ensure that it becomes typical for those leaving school to start a traineeship, apprenticeship, or to go to university.

Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the results:

“While the pledge in the Queen’s Speech to provide more support to school-leavers is welcome, what these results show that there is strong public support for Government to do more to back UK STEM skills in particular.

“Boosting the country’s engineering, manufacturing and science sectors is crucial to the country’s economic recovery – but this can only be done if we have sufficient numbers of skilled professionals entering these sectors.

“Government needs to consider incentives like subsidies for students pursuing STEM subjects at university, and more needs to be done to promote STEM subjects in schools and colleges.

“There is also an urgent need for schools, technical colleges and universities to develop better links to industry – to ensure that people have the right skills to excel in the commercial world, and to inspire children and students about the huge possibilities of careers in STEM.”

Other findings of the poll include, 48% of the public saying that Government subsidies for STEM degrees would persuade them to encourage their children to consider a career in engineering, compared to just 14% who said it would not.

The survey also found that 69% of the public think that engineering and science should be designated as ‘critical national professions’ that are vital for the growth and wellbeing of our economy.

The survey of over 2,000 members of the public was conducted by ICM Research on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on 26-28 April 2013.