A-levels: More students need to choose physics – or engineering could be at threat

The publication of today’s A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland highlights the low proportion of students studying Physics, a crucial engineering gateway subject, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Figures released today by the Joint Council for Qualifications show no increase in entries to Physics (4.3% of all A-levels this year compared to 4.4% in 2014), Design & Technology (1.6% of all A-levels this year and in 2014) and ICT (1.1% of all A-levels this year and in 2014) A-levels. The figures also show a decline in performance in some science A-levels, including Physics. The IET is concerned at this downward trend for the subjects, which are crucial for engineering.

Paul Davies, IET Head of Policy, said: “This year’s results show no increases in students studying the crucial engineering gateway subjects of Physics, Design & Technology and ICT.  If we don’t reverse this trend thousands of young people are effectively closing the door on an exciting, creative career as engineers.

“There continues to be huge demand for engineers so it is important that young people continue their studies into higher education. The country needs more people studying science and engineering subjects at university taking up apprenticeships.

“We are at risk of stifling economic growth if we do not encourage more students to study STEM subjects which are crucial to ensuring a healthy and balanced economy.”

Research from the IET shows that there is a growing need to change perceptions of what modern engineering is and what it can offer young people, particularly girls, in terms of a career. The key to doing this is by changing the perceptions of parents who are highly influential in their child’s decision making processes and showing them that engineering doesn’t have to be a messy, mechanical or physically demanding career choice.

There is huge demand for engineers.  The IET’s most recent Skills & Demand in Industry Report showed that 59 per cent of companies indicated concerns that shortage of engineers would be a threat to their business.

The IET offers a range of scholarships for students to continue their engineering study at university.  The deadline for some is 27 August.  For more information, visit www.theiet.org/scholarships or www.theiet.org/diamond.

Notes to editors

  • In 2014, the IET provided over £1 million in awards, prizes and scholarships, to celebrate engineering excellence and inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians.  For more information, visit www.theiet.org/scholarships
  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespersons.
  • The IET is Europe’s largest professional body of engineers with over 150,000 members in 127 countries.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org.
  • Follow the IET on Twitter.