DATA BLOG: New year, new data? Can aging stats really help today’s strategies?

Last week, UCAS completed its suite of 2017 data when it published detailed stats for last autumn’s undergraduate admissions to the UK’s largest universities and colleges. But while the accepted applicant data reaches us only four or five months after the event, the applications were generally made around seven months earlier. So, as we enter the crucial months of the 2018 recruitment cycle, only now is UCAS data giving us a snapshot of what happened up to a year ago.

Then we have HESA data. The first release of HESA’s official student enrolment data for 2016/2017 also came this January. Now we have ‘new’ data relating to the previous year’s UCAS cohort; that is, those enrolling at our universities in Autumn 2016.

But while these figures may seem hopelessly out of date, the trends behind the numbers are still highly relevant to our work in the coming months. (And trust me, I know from experience how much work goes into collecting and collating both sets of outputs!)

Over the coming weeks I’ll be updating the HESA student data on the EPC website and sharing some of my favourite engineering soundbites with you.

For example, did you know that one-in-three Engineering and technology students in 2016/2017 were international (32.5%) with one-in-four coming from outside the EU (24.9%)? HESA has published an introduction to their student (and staff) data on their website highlighting an increase in the number of students in higher education, a decline in part-time students, and over a quarter of first degree graduates gaining a first.

And a reminder of the UCAS engineering trends for last year…

  • Most subject groups had a reduction in applications, with applications to Engineering holding their own of sorts by decreasing by just 1.6% in 2017.
  • Relatively speaking, it was a good year to be an Engineering applicant, as acceptances to Engineering fell by a relatively smaller 0.6%,
  • Overall, the odds of successfully applying to university are at their highest level for nine years.
  • Between 2008 and 2017, the proportional change in acceptances to Engineering makes for healthy reading.
  • Any surprises that nearly 5 men were accepted for every woman in Engineering (4.9:1)?

UCAS also publish data reports plus downloads on their website.

EPC Recruitment and Admissions Forum 2017

This year’s Engineering Professors’ Council Recruitment and Admissions Forum will be held on 15th November at Manchester Metropolitan University. We are delighted to announce not one, but two not-to-be-missed keynote speakers this year.

Mary Curnock Cook OBE stood down from her post as CEO of UCAS earlier this year and has immediately adopted a raft of other high-profile roles including Chair of The Access Project, Chelsea and Kensington College and  Swindon Academy, a Trustee of both the Open University and the National Star Foundation, and Strategic Adviser to Buckingham University. Her views on opportunity and entry qualifications are highly sought after and always challenging. Unshackled from her UCAS role, she has promised to be provocative. Prof Les Ebdon CBE is the Director of the Office of Fair Access in HE, the watchdog for equity in admissions. A tireless champion of wider participation, Les has campaigned hard for evidence-based access strategies and has transformed the opportunities for under-represented groups to access higher education. As former Vice-Chancellor of Bedfordshire University and a chemist by training, he is uniquely qualified to provide an insight into STEM recruitment and access.


Book your place now.


Other highlights include:

  • Findings from the Engineering Enrolments Survey – first glimpse data for 2017 entries into engineering HE across the country
  • Workshop on entry requirements
  • Workshop on under-represented groups in engineering 
  • Degree apprenticeships for success: policy and practice for universities, employers, government and other stakeholders. 

The cost for the day is £99 per ticket for EPC members, and £125 for non members. An invoice with payment methods will be issued once your booking is confirmed.

Who should attend?

  • Heads of Department
  • Admissions Tutors (both postgraduate and undergraduate)
  • Staff working in university recruitment offices
  • Staff working in university outreach functions

You can have a look on the RA Forum programme 2017 and book your place at the RA Forum here.

GEDC Airbus Diversity Award 2016

Airbus diversity awards

The Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) Airbus Diversity Award is sponsored by Airbus and aims to encourage and acknowledge work that inspires students of all profiles and backgrounds to study and succeed in engineering.

The closing date for applications is 30th June 2016



You can download the application form and brief for candidates here.

For questions, please contact

EPC December newsletter now available…

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Protected: Consultation on reform of GCSE, AS and A level Electronics qualifications

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Ingenious resilience: messages for a new Government

Ingenious resilienceEngineering matters to the UK economy, on both a regional and national level, and the profession is vital to maintaining the UK’s position in the world.  It drives innovation, regional growth and is leading in tackling the “grand challenges” that face society more generally.  The c.90 engineering faculties in universities across the UK are playing lead roles in educating the engineers of the future and working with businesses of all sizes, and in doing so, ensuring enduring economic resilience through their regional spread and provision of talent and cutting edge research to innovative firms.

In this briefing, from the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) and the Engineering Professors’ Council, we call for a long term, consistent approach to policy and funding, particularly around early educational engagement and strong and effective university collaboration and provide some case-study examples of some great initiatives led by universities from across the sector.


  • Early educational engagement: We need more engineers.  To address this, engagement must begin at primary school and university engineering departments are playing their part to build from the foundations set by schools.
  • Strong university-industry collaboration: The UK’s historical record of partnerships between higher education and industry in engineering is strong, but more needs to be done to include mid-sized innovators.

Download the briefing (pdf)

If you are a university member and wish to download the amendable briefing, you may do so here.  Or please contact us.


Perkins Review One Year On Report launched at Tomorrow’s Engineers Week 2104

Erik Bonino, Chair of Shell, launches Tomorrow's Engineers Week 2014An impressive group gathered at Shell UK’s London headquarters this morning (3rd November, 2014) to launch Tomorrow’s Engineers week 2014.  Erik Bonino, Chairman of Shell UK (pictured here) and Vince Cable the Business Secretary spoke passionately about the need to feed the pipeline of engineers to ensure we have sufficient to meet industry’s needs. They endorsed warmly the Review of Engineering Skills led by Professor John Perkins, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (also pictured here), who also attended to launch his “One Year On” report which has brought together an array of partners – professional engineering institutions, universities, schools, FE colleges and businesses – to address the need at every level from schools to postgraduate specialist skills.

The Engineering Professors’ Council leads the work, on behalf of Education for Engineering, on postgraduate specialist skills.

Professor Perkins’ progress report is available from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and a fuller account of the progress of the Perkins Task and Finish Groups is available from Education for Engineering.





2014/15 undergraduate applications to engineering up 10.4%

14-07 applications position as at June 2014The UCAS data released on 11 July, 2014 shows the number of undergraduate applications to UK universities for 2014/15 entry received by the June deadline were up 4.1% compared with the same point in 2013/14.  Applications received from now on will be dealt with in the clearing system.  But it’s even better news for engineering with applications up 10.4% – one of the three biggest percentage increases (after Technologies at 12.8% and Computer Science at 12.1%) – compared with 2013/14 and 17.1% compared with 2012/13.  Applications from UK and EU students were particularly strong.

The proportion of engineering applications as a percentage of all applications is on the increase too.  In 2010/11, engineering accounted for 5% of all applications – for 2014/15 it’s 5.7%.

EPC members can click on the chart to view the underlying data – analysed for UK, EU and non EU applicants.  Non members may read the UCAS briefing at this link.

Engineering Professors’ Council position statement on Maths and Further Maths A level reform

The Engineering Professors’ Council-chaired Mathematics Working Group has just published its position statement on Maths and Further Maths A level reform. Do let us have your views…


The Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC) is the representative body for engineering in higher education. Its primary purpose is to provide a forum in which engineers working in UK higher education (HE) can exchange ideas about engineering education, research and other matters of common interest and come together to provide an influential voice and authoritative conduit through which engineering departments’ interests can be represented to key audiences.

Mathematics is a subject of enormous importance to the education of engineers in all disciplines. This importance is illustrated by the fact the EPC has for many years maintained a Mathematics Working Group (MWG). In addition to EPC members, the EPC MWG includes representatives from the Association for Science Education (ASE), the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), the Institute of Physics (IoP), Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI), the National STEM Centre, the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), the Royal Academy of Engineering and awarding bodies. It was a task group of the EPC MWG that played a central role in the successful development of the Mathematics for Engineering Additional & Specialist Learning qualification for the Advanced Engineering Diploma.

As a body with 80 institutional members (from all university mission groups) encompassing ~6,000 (permanent FTE) academic staff in all branches of engineering, the EPC wants to express its willingness to offer advice and help to those charged with reforming A Levels in subjects that help prepare students for HE engineering courses, including, of course, Mathematics and Further Mathematics. The EPC also wants to state briefly its considered view, formulated by its Mathematics Working Group, about the future of these two key subjects at A Level.

  1. It is important to recognise that the majority of students of A Level Mathematics do not go on to undertake a degree course in mathematics and that other subjects in HE (such as engineering, the natural sciences and economics) are important stakeholders with an interest in the standards and content of A and AS Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics. The Mathematics Working Group of EPC includes representatives from the mathematics, physics and science communities in addition to engineering. Our experience is that there is a very high degree of agreement as to the required content of A and AS Level Mathematics courses across these disciplines.
  2. We believe that the principal problem with current A Levels lies in the forms of assessment used rather than their subject content. These assessments have been allowed to become too structured and predictable, especially in Mathematics and to some extent Further Mathematics; they no longer test genuine mathematical knowledge, understanding and insight but rather the ability to be led through questions that are very similar to examples previously seen in class.
  3. While we agree that changes are necessary to A Levels to restore standards, we feel that the modular structure of A Levels has been made something of a scapegoat in the debate on standards. We would advocate the retention for Mathematics and Further Mathematics of a modular structure, in which the results of AS Levels completed the end of Year 12 contribute to the award of A Levels completed in Year 13. We recommend such a structure because we are concerned that, while depth could be assessed at the end of the course, time constraints make it difficult to cover the required breadth in the assessment.               For mathematics, a two-stage assessment process has much to commend it. The first stage (usually taken at the end of Year   12) could measure a wide range of mathematical skills. This would free up time at the end of Year 13 for final synoptic assessments that contain in-depth questions requiring problem-solving skills and the ability to apply and combine the mathematical principles learnt over the past two years.
  4. Given the declared intention to increase the testing of mathematical skills in relevant A Level subjects, it is important that the reforms of subjects such as Chemistry and Physics take into account the reform of Mathematics and Further Mathematics and vice versa. The fact that the reforms of these subjects are progressing on different timelines is a matter of significant concern. In addition to the obvious risks associated with disjointed reform processes, the lack of synchronisation in effect eliminates the opportunity for the discussion of potentially beneficial cross-subject reforms. This is particularly important in the context of mechanics, which features in the specifications of Mathematics/Further Mathematics and Physics A Levels. If these subjects are properly coordinated, there is considerable scope thereby to support and strengthen advantageously the mathematical sophistication of Physics A Level. This opportunity should not be missed.
  5. Although we do not see any need for significant changes in subject content, we do believe that structural aspects of Mathematics A Level (and Further Mathematics) need reconsideration. One example is the question of how mechanics is taught, as mentioned above. Another is the question of which parts of the specifications should be ‘core’ and which ‘options’. We believe that a greater proportion of Mathematics A Level should be ‘core’ and that the core should include some mechanics, probability theory and statistics in addition to pure mathematics.
  6. The linkage between applications and options should also be reconsidered. As the considerable majority of those who take Mathematics A Level and progress on to HE do not go on to study mathematics at university, we believe the interests of learners as a whole would be better served if examples of the wide applicability of the mathematics they are learning were encountered throughout their study of the subject. Such examples help motivate students and contribute to understanding.
  7. The revival in the popularity of AS and A Level Further Mathematics has been a great success story in the last decade. This has been due, in no small part, to the work of the Further Mathematics Support Programme (formerly the Further Mathematics Network) managed by MEI. In particular, the provision of a Further Mathematics AS Level, which can be taken either during Year 12 or Year 13, has been very popular.   Further Mathematics AS Level is very well regarded by Admissions Tutors for HE engineering programmes. In consequence, the EPC is concerned that the reforms could have the unintended consequence of reducing the take-up of Further  Mathematics, which is often taken as a fourth A Level subject. With the concentration of assessments into a few weeks at the end of the two years, we fear that many students will be advised by their school/college to take no more than three A Levels. This would undoubtedly reduce the take-up of both A Level and AS Level Further Mathematics in Year 13. Our proposal for a two-stage assessment of Mathematics would help to alleviate this problem by reducing examination load at the end of Year 13 of those taking Mathematics A Level.

Letter on student number controls for 2014-15

hefce80HEFCE has received a letter from the Minister for Universities and Science, requesting that it considers increasing the flexibility of recruitment in 2014-15 for institutions that show strong recruitment patterns.  The Government has also asked HEFCE to retain the threshold for unrestrained recruitment at ABB for 2014-15, but to look at options for extending the list of exempt high-grade qualifications.  HEFCE has now opened a consultation on its proposalas for changes to the student number control arrangements for 2014-15 onwards, in particular:

  •  the operation of student number control (SNC) flexibility from 2014-15 onwards
  • the entry of publicly funded providers of higher education not currently in a relationship with HEFCE into the student number control system
  • changes to the high-grades policy to exempt a limited number of combinations of qualification types from the student number control.

Responses are required by 28th June, 2013.  You may read the consultation document here.  If you have comments you would like submitted by the EPC, please contact us.