back to article 'More than ever before' now studying Sci/Tech in Blighty

University admissions statistics reveal that more students than ever before in Blighty have enrolled on courses in science and engineering this year. Unfortunately this progress has been achieved at a grim cost, as far larger numbers of young people have as usual chosen to study law, business, management, psychology - and …


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  1. BS

    All engineers & scientists are equal...

    Is it just me, or does the opening paragraph not make sense....

    ``University admissions statistics reveal that more students than ever before in Blighty have enrolled on courses in science and engineering this year."

    So far, so good. But then

    ``Unfortunately this progress has been achieved at a grim cost, as far larger numbers of young people have as usual chosen to study law, business, management, psychology - and computer science."

    This seems to imply that the author prefers science and engineering over "law, business, management, psychology"; but then the author adds ``computer science," which is both a scientific and engineering discipline.

    Is the author suggesting that all engineers & scientists are equal, but some are more equal than others?

  2. David Adams

    Should I be worried about our future?

    "Journalism and Media Studies, while not yet attracting five-figure student bodies, surged worryingly - up by 15.7 and eight per cent to 2,675 and 5,141 respectively.

    That's an awful lot of young lives thrown away."

    Well McDonalds needs to get their staff from somewhere.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And afterwards?

    Be interested to see how many actually get work in their chosen subject/field.

  4. Psymon

    reminds me of the old adage

    An engineering student asks "How does it work"

    A Science student asks "Why does it work?"

    A Sociology student asks "Do you want fries with that?"

  5. Kerry Hoskin


    Just an idea, but how about giving a maintenance grant to those doing Science and Engineering subjects. So if you want to study a B.Sc or BEng you get a nice fat grant if you want to do BA, LLB, etc you take a loan. Only trouble is sometime faux Science subjects like Psychology get lumped in with proper science and get awarded B.Sc’s

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Hermes Conran

    Three year drunken, drug addled orgy....

    Then sober up and try and find a job. It doesn't matter what you study because you won't remember any of it!!!

  8. Beelzeebub


    Prime fodder for Business Anlaysts shurely?, hic..

  9. Anonymous Coward


    There was a rise in the overall number of uni students.... and every subject (except Chemistry) consequently saw a similar rise in numbers?

    Also, a lot of students choose pointless courses?

    Talk about an insightful article.

    /takes off sarcasm hat.

    If you're not going to uni to study science, don't go to uni at all. I was smart enough to figure that out, why are so many kids today so stupid? Interested in something? I think you'll find the library is free of charge mate. Students just want to get pissed and universities just want to make money, that's all it's really about.

  10. Liam Johnson


    Surley there is something useful we can do with all these lawyers? Biofuels maybe? At the very least we could collect all the hot air to replace a power station of two?

  11. Peter Bradley

    Those I have known

    I've met many physicists, engineers and even computer scientists who were as knowledgeable about the arts and literature as most arts graduates I have met. I have never met any arts graduates knowledgeable to that degree in the fields of science and engineering.

    I wonder why this would be? Is it the company I keep?



  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    CompSci in UK

    CS in UK is mostly worthless. I've met quite a few graduates who knew jack shit about programming after finishing this. Also programming jobs are getting more and more scarce as most companies outsource to India.

    I suppose media studies can be useful - soon graduates will have better chance to live from publishing a blog that hoping to find a programming job in Blighty.

  13. Ian 23

    Media Students

    "Journalism and Media Studies, while not yet attracting five-figure student bodies, surged worryingly - up by 15.7 and eight per cent to 2,675 and 5,141 respectively.

    That's an awful lot of young lives thrown away."

    Says the journalist working for the media.

    I guess its just 3 years of various kinds of irony they're all in for.

  14. MinionZero

    Yeah right...

    “The UK is world leading in science and engineering research"

    They repeat this like some kind of mantra, to brain wash us all into believing it, but they happily give hundreds of billions of our money to banks (and their greedy corrupt directors), but I don't see them putting that much investment into science and engineering education and projects to help boost the UK economy. Engineering in the UK has been in decline for decades. So has the UK electronics industry. Sure successful companies still exist here and there, but they are not treated the way leading countries treat their science and engineering people and companies.

    I'm sure if questioned they would trot out the old line about the so called UK biotechnology industry to distract us from seeing so many areas where we are not “world leading” (tm). Also “our UK” biotechnology industry isn't even ours, as its part of multinational companies, so not just UK companies). Also most of our big companies in many industries are owned by groups outside of the UK.

    So the UK is world leading in science and engineering, ok then:

    Where is our broadband speed compared with the rest of the world?

    Where is our Samsung, Intel or Honda?

    Where is our car industry compared to the other countries?

    Where is our architecture compared with countries like Dubai or Shanghai etc..?

    How about our investment in science and engineering compared with other leading countries?

    So I hear the political Rhetoric and their all too common lies and manipulation, but I don't see the evidence?

    Yet I work in science and engineering, so I would love to say its the best in the world and if I look hard enough I'm sure I can find a small pocket here and there where we do good, but that is still overall small fry compared to the science and engineering of many other countries e.g. Korea, Japan, China, America ... in fact many European countries show more interest and respect for science and engineering than the UK. For us to be “world leading” (tm) we need to be leading.

    Its so ironic as huge investment in science and engineering has already proved what a vast different it can make to the UK, but that was back in the Industrial Revolution when we were "world leading in science and engineering (tm)" ... we need to stop living on past glories and focus on competing in the 21st century. First step sort out UK broadband so other new companies can grow from that rather than playing catch up to many other countries.

    But then we are “world leading”(tm). With statements like that, it looks like the UK is world leading in Political Rhetoric and lies. The other countries must be laughing at us. :(

  15. Paul 4

    engineers & scientists???

    "Is the author suggesting that all engineers & scientists are equal" I hope not since to be a "science" graduate takes three years, to be an engineer takes about 7 (3 for your BEng, 1-2 for your MEng and then 2-3 for your charterd status).

    I know because im an engineering drop out.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Computer Science?

    I wonder how many students are studying Computer Science because they think it will teach them how to create webpages, write Java code or fix PCs?

    A 'proper' CS degree is essentially a mathematics degree at core, but with additional extras such as computer hardware concepts, formal language/grammar, and other more computer-related areas.

    Any programming that is taught is done in order for the student to then use that language _as part of the course_ to demonstrate understand of other topics, such as algorithms, concepts, etc. That's why CS courses generally use less-that-real-world languages such as Pascal, Prolog, LISP, etc.*

    I guess I'm one of those CS graduates with delusions of grandeur, although I didn't end up being a code monkey. My delusions of grandeur caused me to end up as an IT architect, although I continually use the abstract concepts I learnt as part of my CS degree - it's surprising how pervasive a lot CS subject matter is.

    Understanding how IT works at the theoretical level makes the job a lot easier, and has continued to interest me in my post-graduate life. A lot of techies, designers and architects don't realise there's a whole theoretical layer underpinning what they're working with, and therefore don't get such an insight into what's going on, making the job less interesting and, sometimes, more frustrating.

    *OK, these languages do crop up in the real world, but not as much as Java, C, C# etc.!

  17. Paul 93

    Not all degrees get you money...

    It's a fairly well documented that "people who complete degrees will earn more money than those who stop eductation at A levels" I think the current number is £100k over a lifetime of work, but that is thanks to the wonderful world of averages.

    In detail, those students doing "proper" degrees such as maths, engineering and science will earn up to £200k more (again on average over a life time) and those doing our favourites such as media studies and psychology will in fact be about £50k worse off, excluding their lovely student debts of course!!

    I would love for student to read and understand that, but those who can read and do "the math" are probably the ones doing the proper degrees already.

    After "three hard years" at university studying pschology, where the biggest effect on your grade seemed to be if you had slept with your lecturer or not, my EX girlfriend decided to get a job as a part time nursery nurse, wow, what a way to use that eduction.

    Obviously she was dumped immediately and I hooked up with an accountant!

    Paul - BEng(Hons) , CdipAF, MBA (sorry) and best of all MIET.

  18. Sir Runcible Spoon


    It's funny you should say that.

    I worked all over Europe building up internet companies back in the late 90's and everyone I met seemed to look upon Britain with the kind of pity you reserve for your dribbling, whisky soaked Aunt huddled over in the corner.

    What I can't stand is all that elitest bullshit from the tabloids about how great this country is. Every single European City I've been to knocks spots off the ones here in just about every sense.

    Why am even still here? Lazy, that's why <sigh> bring on the BOFH.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CS programmers?

    ``CS in UK is mostly worthless. I've met quite a few graduates who knew jack shit about programming after finishing this."

    Any monkey can program. I am a computer scientist, not a programmer! Programming is only a small part of a CompSci degree. Of course, I can use the tools of my trade, but I do not program for a living.

  20. BS


    BS wrote: "Is the author suggesting that all engineers & scientists are equal"

    Paul 4 wrote: I hope not since to be a "science" graduate takes three years, to be an engineer takes about 7 (3 for your BEng, 1-2 for your MEng and then 2-3 for your charterd status). I know because im an engineering drop out.

    I consider myself a scientist not an engineer. But I have an MEng (which includes BEng), which took four years of study. Chartered status can be applied for without any additional effort as such, you merely have to have demonstrated various skills in your day job.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The press release clearly also failed to mention the huge surrge in people studying degrees in various forms of "forensic science" ... appartently programs like CSI have caused young people to seek a glamorours career in forensics. Only problem, as pointed out in an article on this in the Guardian is that now each year enough students start forensics degree courses to replace ove half the existing workforce in this area in the UK .... it helpfully suggested that this imbalance could be fixed if half the students could be persuaded to take up an alternative career as a serial killer!

  22. Paul 25

    Re: "CompSci in UK"

    CompSci in the UK is a really mixed bag. Some of us spent four years studying everything from analogue and digital electronics, through half a dozen programming languages from assembler to Prolog, and lots of mathematical theory to boot.

    Other's spend the same time learning to code in Java, and get to build a pissy little website for their final year project.

    Computer Science is probably the single least standardised subject in higher education. In physics or maths you can reasonably expect two courses to offer the same essential material, but not CS.

    I've known CS grads who could barely code in one language and didn't have any real understanding of the inner workings or theory of computation. But I've also known ones who can do funky things like get a hand-built Z80 micro-computer to display a spinning wireframe model of a cobra mark II on an oscilloscope.

    All degrees are equal, but some are definitely more equal than others.

  23. mwk

    Chemistry is on the decline

    because chemistry departments are on the decline.

    Specialist fields (organic-chem, chem-eng, comp-chem, forensics etc) get siphoned off into other, larger, "more appropriately equipped" depts, or get split off into their own separate group, and they take most of the industrial funding with them. Fundamental chemistry is left to huddle in the corner, poor and unloved.

    And if it can't make money, the university heads will kill it.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Drop out rate

    "Whether that means another 11,000-odd pukka tech wizards to add to the ranks of the real engineers and scientist"

    The statistics do not provide the story! These 11,000 will be reduced by 50% when half of them drop out early next year when they realise web design isn't taught... And, moreover, they cannot comprehend how computer scientists count in such a funny manner with number systems starting from 0.

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  26. Anonymous Coward

    Come the revolution....

    At least we keep an accurate record of the lawyers as they go through the system to held keep a tally for the firing squads.

    Viva la revolution!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Message to Oliver Jones

    I read your comment Oliver with interest. I was a Senior design engineer (electronics), then a Project manger until the company I worked for went tits up. In all the years I worked I too had to put up with customers who didn't really know what they wanted. Idiot bosses who couldn't listen and graduates who thought a degree made them capable. I decided to set up my own Design agency, and so far this year have stayed afloat. It gives me enormous freedom to work with who I want, and some customers I will in the future politely decline, where as before I was at the beck and call of idiots regardless of how dangerous they where to my mental health. Oliver just go and do it. It might take time to get established, go in cheap, build up a client base, get real freedom. The inland revenue run some really good courses on being self employed, free courses too. Free custard creams and coffee too. JUST DO IT, don't end sat in a job you hate, and are trapped in thinking those two terrible words "IF ONLY"

  28. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    @ Oliver Jones.

    Laughable commentary.

    Seems to me that the only one who has kept you in your current malaise is you. If you seriously believe that being pimp will be more rewarding that prostitute in an IT sense then you are probabaly just not good enough.

    I've been contracting for 15 years without any issues, have made a shit load of money and regularly take breaks of up to 3-6 months to enjoy life. Never in all that time have I seen a pimp manage that.

    Good luck blaming everyone else though. You'll realise one day that you can run away from everything but yourself.

  29. Mal Adapted

    @AC 13:29 GMT

    "Understanding how IT works at the theoretical level makes the job a lot easier"

    Ditto everything you said, and the other glad CS grads too. I'd only add that assembly language programming may have been the most valuable course I took. Talking to the machine in its own language really helped me understand how it works.

  30. Tim99 Silver badge

    Forensics - AC

    Having achieved Chartered status in a 'real' science (one of the sciences that does not have 'science' in its name), and having worked as a forensic scientist, I have some bad news for people with forensic science degrees - You will not get a real job in a real forensic science laboratory.

    Professional forensic scientists almost always have a good degree in a 'real' science subject - They are then taught the forensing stuff as junior forensic scientists.

    It should be noted that after about 20 years, I switched to IT, which is a damned sight easier and much better paid than 'real' science...

  31. MinionZero

    Freedom and bosses ... (a bit like heaven and hell)...

    @Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse:

    Frankly not everyone is as arrogant as you which is probably why you do so well in business, because it gives you a way to deal with bosses and play them at their own game. Another clue is the joyous way you have to hold up and trumpet your repeated "shit load of " successes in front of everyone, when you see others are suffering and finally coming to the realization that their trust in bosses is misplaced and been exploited rather than rewarded. I strongly suspect someone like you doesn't care about trusting bosses, because its obvious to people like you not to trust them. Unfortunately its not obvious for everyone. Sadly most people (including me) are far more trusting of their bosses, believing (usually wrongly) that they are investing in their own future, in "their" company, when in fact its not their company at all, (not one fragment of it), its only the bosses company (which is all to often proved too late for them, when they are made redundant and they have to face up to the pain of their wasted investment, knowing their bosses have got rich and continue to benefit from their investments, while they are left with having to rebuild their lives again). Been there, done that, (too many times) now I'm sick of trusting bosses words. Sadly for most of us, its a painful learning experience because we want to trust and we want to invest, but so many bosses exploit, rather than reward.

    Employers want employees to be completely trustworthy, but employers are not trustworthy. So many of them play by a different set of rules. For example many bosses do everything they can to manipulate wages down, whilst getting as much work for their money as they can. Thats not trustworthy, they are looking to undermine you, not reward you. Also they so often talk of rewarding employees, yet so often there is no year end bonus or reward, because there's always an excuse to explain away why there's no employee bonus or reward. Yet look at their yearly reward and compare their disposable income to your own, then you will see they effectively live in a different world to you where a few thousand extra per year means very little to them, yet its everything to you. It makes a huge different to most workers. (Go to and check out their reward then you will see through their words).

    @Oliver Jones:

    Well said and I totally agree with everything you said. Be your own boss. Be free. Without a boss, it becomes your money, your time, your way ... and without the incessant stresses of office politics and trying to keep ignorant arrogant bosses happy.

  32. Anonymous Coward


    If you have to ask, then you have just answered the question

  33. EFG

    @Kerry Hoskin

    "Just an idea, but how about giving a maintenance grant to those doing Science and Engineering subjects. So if you want to study a B.Sc or BEng you get a nice fat grant if you want to do BA, LLB, etc you take a loan. Only trouble is sometime faux Science subjects like Psychology get lumped in with proper science and get awarded B.Sc’s"

    Any scientific field whose predictions are precise and accurate enough to get US soldiers to jump from a 15% shoot-to-kill rate (WWII) to 90% (Vietnam) can be considered legit.

    Now I'll grant you that definitely psychoanalysis and probably even a lot of clinical methods are bunk, but the hardcore of psychology: behaviorist analysis, cognitive psychology, neuroscience ... this is all very real.

  34. wheel

    Quit yer moanin'

    Might I be so bold as to suggest that the reason so few young people study science at university is because secondary science teaching is boring as hell.

    And not only secondary science teaching - when I was a Physics and Computer Science undergraduate at Durham university (no less) I found the teaching to be, largely, rubbish. (Perhaps this might explain the high drop-out rate on science and/or computer science courses.) There were only two lecturers who were good enough communicators for me to consider them teachers; the rest were researchers who could not really think down to an undergraduate level (and some clearly resented having to do so). Those who graduated from the course will have had these lecturers as their exemplars for what a science teacher should be, thus adding to the ranks of inadequate science teachers.

    I say 'those who graduated' as I did not. I got sufficiently frustrated that I got clinically depressed and had to leave Durham on medical grounds. (Once gone I decided not to return.)

    I then took a degree in Performing Arts at Middlesex University. I can hear you laughing now, but with my PA degree I managed to get a lecturing job which paid £30k – and I don't even have a teaching qualification. I'm currently studying for a masters at Goldsmiths. The teaching on both courses has been excellent, and I am certain that the course graduates will inspire many more people to study the arts at a deeper level. (And until you've explored the intricacies of Rasa theory in relation to the Poetics, don't tell me it's not that deep.)

    To look down on liberal arts students misses the point. We need better science teachers and lecturers.

    Finally, Britain's arts sector brings a great deal of money into the country. So shouldn't we have an arts-led economy?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Real Science

    I'm about to start a Geosciences degree, with a long-tail plan to do a MSc in Earth Sciences and (preferably) complete my PhD at leisure.

    I had a long conversation with a friend who had a laugh at this - "Earth Science isn't a proper science!" he said, "it's just another bandwagon for greenies!". But it wasn't long before he was stumped... few people, especially young people, understand the scope of Geo/Earth science. It's biology, chemistry, molecular science, geology, maths and physics.

    The chap who claimed you can become chartered in science faster than engineering has an incomplete understanding of what 'real' science is. Sure, you can specialise and do nothing but physics, but - and here's where the kids are going to struggle - real science has no shortcuts. It can easily take 10 years to become a Chartered Geologist, and there are so many subcategories and specialities-within-specialities in science that what you get paid in science is down to how serious you are about it, how you plan your career, and your own drive and ambition.

    There's a good chance I'm being naive, to think any ambitions of having fun and a good career in any of my fields of interest (seismic, ocean, mantle, soil, etc - "geo" sciences), but if you're so easily dissuaded at the beginning, then in all likelihood you're not cut out for the long haul. Generation Y is impatient, obnoxious (thanks to the web), and spoon-fed, so I'm not worried they'll be taking the jobs I'm after (I'm 38 - "it's never too late").

    Now, if money was my chief motivator, and yeah if I was 10 years younger, then I'd probably think about engineering too. Science and Engineering are partners for good reason.

  36. Bruce Ordway

    Thinkers doers and all others?

    How many scientists does society need? I'm sure we all know at least one highly educated person who is incapable of accomplishing anything. Or do you work with people that are really good at things the business doesn't need or care about? What would my country look like if it were populated entirely by scientists?

    BTW, I'm a fine art major who ended up working in engineering, IT and finally accounting.

    You know what they say at art schools these days, "the MFA is the new MBA".

  37. Anonymous Coward


    Unfortunately, our new class of Professional Politicians are almost exclusively drawn from "General Studies" graduates. They do right well too, profess a grasp of technical issues, but have little understanding or sympathy for the absolutes, culture and discipline necessary to produce more than hot air.. My MP is a BSc and PhD Political Science. How narrow is that? And, what a shining example.

    What is engineering? To keep under performing departments open,and to increase access to "university" we now have degree programmes leading to accreditation at CEng, IEng and conceivably Eng Tech level. Then, there are GasSafe "Engineers". The intellectual requirement of these programmes varies radically.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Message to Oliver Jones

    AC, I think your words are misguided. If ever there was someone who had ever given up before they had begun then Oliver Jones is that person. There is not a cat in hells chance that anyone who wrote that comment could succeed on their own at anything, I wouldn't even trust him to make a cup of tea without guidance.

    Count me in with Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse with about 10 years more experience and the same work/rest ratio.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What a complete load of twaddle, you are confusing arrogance and confidence, the woe is me attitude of Oliver Jones and the grasp the bull by the horns attitude of the dimwitted horse. Furthermore, any contractor who was confrontational, which is what I assume you mean by "play them at their own game", with the person who had hired them would soon be out of a contract.

    >Be your own boss. Be free. Without a boss, it becomes your money, your time, your way...

    Why don't you and OJ just get a flat and do it, there's obviously some form of utopia out there that comes to those who think they deserve it.

  40. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    This is all about the pay, you know

    The reason we're getting so many media studies goons and so few scientists is this: science is bloody hard work and doesn't pay particularly well. Research scientists start off as PhD students slaving for an established researcher and trying to get a degree alongside this somehow, then become semi-nomadic post-docs, trying to move from grant-position to grant-position, frequently moving hundreds of miles every few years, searching for a permie position.

    If you don't manage to make a name for yourself in a decade or so after PhD graduation, you're effectively doomed to this nomadic life forever, or to dropping out and getting a job outside science. Basically, the career structure for research science sucks big-time, the pay is truly lousy for the amount of training required to do the job, and you can do way better in jobs you're not even qualified for.

    This why I, as a scientist qualified to PhD level in bio-sciences is working as a UNIX sysadmin; the pay for this permie job in a university is about 30% better than I could get in any research job, plus the position is permanent. As long as British industry, such as it is, rewards arty-farty twerps with media studies degrees better than it rewards scientists this is going to continue.

  41. sarah hothersall

    Sad but true

    My son is in first year of 6th form and really loves science, engineering maths, so no fool. However trying to get some sort of work experience has proven that the UK does not value this sort of student. For the Headstart courses, fine if you want to be an accountant, lawyer, doctor, they will provide work experience at companies, but for engineering (one course for the WHOLE of engineering!!). Well, there's 30 places in THE WHOLE OF THE COUNTRY and even then, it's at a university, not a company.

    So that's what we think of kids who are our future - go be an accountant, or a lawyer, but otherwise don't bother.

    Should really sign off as p@@@ssed off of surburbia

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Work experience


    If your son is anything like I was at sixth form, he simply does not have enough expertise at the moment. However, after the first year of my degree I found myself a position at a small company. This is very uncommon and few students manage it; but clearly it is possible. Thereafter, the summers of my 2nd, 3rd and 4th year were relatively easy to find positions. I now teach undergraduates and I hand pick the best ones and find them positions with companies for their summers.

  43. Anonymous Coward


    "science is bloody hard work and doesn't pay particularly well. Research scientists start off as PhD students slaving for an established researcher"

    Me and my £25k tax free stipend, whilst living in Japan, as a PhD student, beg to differ.

    AC as I don't want to sound like a cunt.

    Beer as, well, I like to drink.

  44. Anonymous Coward


    @Pah, UK PhD students earn nearer £12k tax free.

    Beer, because, I like to drink too.

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