UCAS confirms sea change in take up of university engineering places
5 Feb 2021
Engineering has seen a massive rise in popularity among university students, a fact confirmed by the latest data released admissions body UCAS.
The study, which compares changes over the period 2011-2020, demonstratesthat acceptance for engineering courses rose by more than one fifth (21%) from 25,995 in 2011 to 31,545 in 2020.
Interest was especially strong among the largest and youngest cohort of 18 year olds.
It is complemented by even greater rises for computing science – up nearly 50% from 20,420 to 30,090 in the same period – and for artificial intelligence (AI) courses which leapt 400% from only 65 in 2011 to 355.
Chief executive at UCAS Clare Marchant, said: “There are a lot of factors that go into what subjects students choose. It is pleasing to see that they are responding to economic cues with increased demand for subjects like engineering.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (ImechE) is one of many bodies to wlecome the development. Both government and industry has been concerned for years at the failure of engineering to attract sufficient numbers of new recruits and the massive deficit iof female entrants to the profession.
A growth in initiatives to boost science teaching in schools and to alter perceptions of engineering work may have contributed to the rise.
Other factors are likely to be the availability of STEM-related apprenticeship degrees, paid internships and the growth in demand for recruits has meant engineering jobs and pay rates have been less adversely affected by the economic downturn and rises in university costs.
However, IMechE also stressed that the COVID pandemic had provided a clear example to young people of the profession’s role in society, which appealed to a sense of altruism
The Institute’s education policy adviser Lydia Amarquaye remarked:
“It is encouraging to see that a growing number of young people are taking up courses in engineering and associated STEM subjects. We hope this will only increase as young people see the employability and value of engineers through their response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One less welcome trend however is the decline in modern language study. UCAS’s chief executive warned this could exacerbate the languages skills gap in the wake of Brexit, adding it was important that action is taken to promote the benefits of languages across the education sector.