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Applications for engineering degrees drop by 1.3%

30 January, 2012

The number of students applying for engineering degrees has fallen by 1.3%. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers describes the decline as “a worrying sign of the dangerous shortage of engineering skills set to hit the UK in coming years”.

Colin Brown, the IMechE’s director of engineering, acknowledges that the drop may be small (and is well below the average drop of almost 9% across all subjects), but adds that “it is hugely worrying as we need young engineering talent more than ever to help the country’s economy pick-up. If we are to recover, we need engineers to help boost manufacturing industries, to ensure secure and low-carbon energy supplies, and to develop major projects like HS2.
“Ultimately,” he adds, “the drop in student numbers may also lead to job cuts at some universities with effects on engineering departments that will be difficult to reverse.”

According to the IMechE, the UK needs 19,000 extra engineering graduates every year for the next five years to meet future demand.
The Institution has released a position statement recommending that:
♦  the Government link its higher education policy to its plans for economic growth, reducing tuition fees for subjects that are of long-term value to the economy;
♦  it should write off student debt progressively for students with degrees in strategically important and vulnerable subjects who achieve agreed professional qualifications in a related occupation;
♦  the forthcoming all-age career service should be tasked to identify and address the concerns that less-advantaged school-leavers have about university study; and that
♦  the Government should underwrite university engineering departments for three years to ensure continuity of provision while a potentially turbulent situation beds down.

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