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.


Engineering Council guidance for KIS statements

The Engineering Council, with the support of the EPC, has been undertaking work to help universities make the most of the advantages afforded by promoting the accredited status of their degrees – an essential part of the recruitment toolkit for attracting students in the current environment.  Engineering Council colleagues have worked to put together some materials to assist universities to promote accredited status and ensure that websites, KIS statements etc are up to date.  The materials may be found at this link.

UCAS 2012/13 applications dataset

2012/13 applications dataset now available

UCAS logoUCAS has published its more detailed end of cycle statistics for the year 2012/13, enabling trend analysis of the popularity of the underlying engineering disciplines.  Members may find an analysis at this link.  You will need your password.

Immigration policy

More on the immigration policy debate

obhe-logoThe OBHE’s January newsletter highlights its new report: The Global Race for STEM skills.   It reminds us that the sector often appears to lobby for change in current immigration policy on the basis of the lost revenue from overseas students, but that the importance of international talent as a driver for innovation and economic growth is a far more powerful argument. In a recent speech, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced changes to the post-study options available to PhD and MBA students coming to the UK to study.  Stating that the UK government is committed to encouraging the brightest minds to come to study in Britain, Ms May announced that, from April 2013, all PhD students will be allowed to stay in the UK for twelve months following the completion of their studies in order to find skilled work or set up as entrepreneurs.  All very well, but members report a glitch in the system – what about PhD students whose Visa runs out between submission and viva?  As there not officially students any more, they’re not eligible to remain…

Inspiring the next generation of engineers…get involved

ITF-Logo-FinalThe week of March 11th-15th will see an unprecedented number of engineers going into schools to give inspirational talks to students about the work they do and how they chose their careers. To get involved, sign up to the Inspiring the Future programme.  More info. 

Inspiring engineers of the future – get involved

The week of March 11th-15th will see an unprecedented number of engineers going into schools to give inspirational talks to students about the work they do and how they chose their careers. To get involved, sign up to the Inspiring the Future programme.   This week is an important week for engineering with many high profile events happening. First, the inaugural winner of the global Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) will be announced. The QEPrize celebrates an engineer responsible for a ground-breaking innovation in engineering of benefit to humanity and will provide a great opportunity to raise the profile of engineering in the UK. We hope that the prize will inspire and engage the next generation of young people to take up careers in engineering. A unique alliance of organisations: EngineeringUK, the British Science Association, Speakers for Schools and its sister programme Inspiring the Future along with the Royal Academy of Engineering are developing a programme of activities in March, to coincide with other STEM events: such as The Big Bang fair, the first Global Grand Challenges Summit and National Science and Engineering Week. As part of that programme, and to mark the award of the first QEPrize, engineers from across the county are invited to visit state schools in order to share their passion for engineering with young peopleThe winner of the £1 million Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering will be selected by an eminent panel of international judges who are leading engineers and scientists. They will visit the UK in March and have been invited to join the programme of engineering activities, including visiting schools to engage and inspire young people in engineering. Over half of all secondary schools in England have applied for a speaker through the Speakers for Schools programme and many are keen to hear these prominent engineers and scientists talk to their students. A similar number of schools have signed up for the sister programme Inspiring the Future, which aims to recruit 100,000 people at all stages of their careers – from apprentices to CEOs – to go into local schools to talk about their work and career route. The leaders of engineering firms employing large numbers of engineers will be asked to encourage their employees to take part in Inspiring the Future.

End of term reports

End of term reports…

UCAS logoUCAS has published its end of cycle report for 2012, the year which its Chief Executive Mary Curnock Cook called “one of the most complex and challenging years for entry to higher education that the sector has ever known.”  The headline is that the  acceptance rate increased slightly, but only by a fifth of what was needed to offset the fall in applications, and remained substantially below levels of recent years. The fall in acceptances of 27,000 (6%) was the largest recorded.  This fall was compounded further by changes in deferral patterns so that recruitment for entry in 2012 was reduced by 54,000 students.  Unusually, UCAS has not yet published detailed subject level data.  In a HEFCE Circular (18 December) it was announced that universities that failed to fill undergraduate places this year will not generally suffer cuts to their student number allocation next year.

Meanwhile, UUK’s Longer Term Strategy Network released this year’s edition of their annual Patterns and Trends in UK Higher Education report which cautions that “achieving this growth potential will require the university sector and the government to work together to ensure that recruitment activities and migration policies are mutually supportive.”  Given the relatively high proportion of students wishing to study engineering in the UK, we can only say “hear hear” to that.

Osborne support for new vocational qualifications

Published: 12:10am, 2nd November 2012
Updated: 11:07am, 2nd November 2012

New vocational qualifications in engineering will help Britain thrive in the global economy, Chancellor George Osborne has said.

The Royal Academy of Engineering is working with employers to redesign stages in the engineering diploma, known as principal learning elements, into “rigorous” new courses that will be the equivalent of one GCSE.

It is hoped the new qualifications, which are expected to be introduced in September 2014, will lead to more students forging careers in engineering.

Announcing the reform at the opening of a new state-of-the-art Rolls-Royce apprenticeships academy in Derby, Mr Osborne said: “If Britain is to compete and thrive in the global economy then we must lead the way in science and technology.

“These new engineering qualifications will give young people the skills that they want, and that businesses need, to be at the forefront of this race.”

Professor Matthew Harrison, director of engineering and education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “I think this work will exemplify what is meant by the very best vocational education and vocationally-related qualifications that are intrinsically worthwhile.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said: “Engineering skills are vital to many firms and the proposed qualifications will allow young people to gain in-depth knowledge and practical experience in this area while also working towards the level of English and maths required by employers.

“This will be welcomed by manufacturers who are increasingly requiring both academic attainment and relevant work experience.”

BAE Systems chairman Dick Olver, who chairs Education for Engineering, said: “The Government’s support of the updated Engineering Diploma is excellent news for the growth of the UK economy.

“This qualification has been developed with employers and provides the knowledge and skills that UK industry needs from its workforce. We need 1.3 million people in science and engineering jobs by 2020 to maintain the economy.”