A report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has called for A2 maths to be a requirement for students intending to study STEM subjects in higher education

Graduation students

The committee say they 'were shocked to discover that many students starting STEM degrees, even those with A-level maths qualifications, lack the maths skills required to undertake their studies.' To help remedy this, they recommend that maths should be compulsory for all post-16 students, A2 maths should be a requirement for university entrance for STEM courses and that universities should become more involved in setting the maths curriculum.

Lord Willis, chairman of the Lords sub-committee on higher education in STEM subjects, said 'It is crucial that students entering university to study STEM subjects have the appropriate levels of maths skills to begin their courses. We were surprised to hear that many undergraduates have to be given remedial maths lessons when they start university. The government should now make it compulsory for every pupil to study maths beyond 16. This will not only help STEM students but ensure a level of numeracy for everyone that will be increasingly required by employers in the future.'

However, Katherine Haxton, a lecturer in chemistry at Keele University, said 'I teach maths to first year chemistry students. I've found that good A-level grades appear to correlate poorly with the ability of students to meet the maths requirements of their course. For example, common misconceptions include that -273oC must be hotter than -30oC because 273 is a bigger number. I also find students with limited ability to accurately use a calculator, note down working, understand standard form or perform calculations.'

Other recommendations in the report include that 'the government should work with stakeholders to define STEM by producing a statement of competencies and skills that a STEM graduate should possess' and 'a single body should be appointed to provide real time data analysis and a commentary of where STEM shortages exist [.] to inform students on whether the courses they are considering studying will equip them with the skills needed by employers.'

Related Links

 Higher Education in STEM subjects 

Inquiry and report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee