Science and Maths Degrees 'Dying Out'

Daily Mail (London), February 9, 2007 | Go to article overview

Science and Maths Degrees 'Dying Out'


Byline: LAURA CLARK

SCIENCES, maths and languages are suffering an 'irreversible decline' and dying out in British universities, a study warned yesterday.

One in ten maths and science courses and 15 per cent of French courses have closed over the past decade, the University and College Union said.

The closures are part of a worrying trend of students shunning traditional academic disciplines in favour of trendier degrees such as media studies.

A combination of flagging student demand and funding shortfalls are blamed for the closures, which have led to warnings that Britain will struggle to compete with economic rivals.

Academic leaders said the decline of science will seriously impair the country's ability to cope with global warming and pandemic diseases.

Meanwhile the fall in language degrees - echoing a similar decline in school teaching - means UK firms will not be able compete as well in the globalised economy.

The closures that have taken place are leading to 'black spots' around the country where there is no provision of maths or science degrees.

There is now only one science or maths course for every 200,000 Britons aged 16 to 29, although the figure reaches 400,000 in some parts of the country, including the North East.

The UCU research uncovered a 10 per cent fall in the number of science and maths courses at UK universities over the last decade, from 250 to 224, with physics and chemistry the worst affected.

There was a 31 per cent decline in chemistry courses and 14 per cent fall in physics.

Reading University is the latest to announce it is closing its physics department Meanwhile the number of colleges and universities offering French dropped 15 per cent over the 10-year period, while German courses have been cut by a quarter.

The study claims the Government's decision in 2004 to allow 14-year-olds to drop languages will further accelerate the decline.

UCU joint general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'The state of science and modern language provision at university demonstrates the shameful gap between rhetoric and reality in higher education policy.

'We are facing a potentially irreversible decline in the provision of science unless action is taken now. …

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