Lords demand A-level reform to support tech industry

Students who do not have strong maths skills are getting in the way of the UK’s competitiveness in tech industries, according to a Lords report.

A Lords select committee blasted the lack of maths expertise for students studying science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at the university level.

High levels of numeracy are vital in tech industries, yet the Lords say employers are encountering STEM subject graduates with relatively basic maths skills.

This is hurting the UK’s ability to grow its economy based on tech expertise, according to the Lords, and committee members were surprised at the level of knowledge at undergraduate level.

“The Government has made clear that education and hi-tech industry is vital to its plans to generate economic growth,” Lord Willis of Knaresborough, chairman of the committee, said. 

“However without a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce that will not be possible,” he continued. “It is vital therefore that higher education in the UK has a strong STEM sector and is able to produce the graduates and postgraduates hi-tech industries will demand.”

He added: “We were surprised to hear that many undergraduates have to be given remedial maths lessons when they start university.” 

The demands are made against the backdrop of a widely acknowledged IT skills gap. To remedy this, the Science and Technology Committee believes maths should be compulsory for all A-level students who want to take on a STEM subject course.

They also called for universities to take a more active role in scrutinising standards among prospective students during the enrolment process.

Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) director Imran Khan said it is imperative the government heeds the recommendations of the report in order to revive the economy.

“If the Government adopts the report’s recommendations, including some serious analysis of what skills employers need compared to what our higher education sector is actually producing, we might get a genuinely joined-up strategy for STEM education,” Khan said in a statement.

He said that such a strategy is “what the UK is desperately going to need if we’re to be competitive in tomorrow’s high-tech economy”.