02 Aug 2007View Comments
Mathematics and computer sciences have the highest university dropout rate in the UK, with one in 10 undergraduates not continuing into a second year of study.
The figures are in stark contrast to medicine and dentistry – with the highest retention rate of 98 per cent – according to the latest official figures from the National Audit Office, published last week.
Maths and computer sciences have also suffered the biggest decline in first-year student intakes, dropping by a quarter since 2002.
And yet the IT industry continues to grow between five and eight times faster than other sectors, and needs 150,000 new entrants every year.
It is not only the student numbers that need to improve, and not only the IT sector that is affected. University curricula for technology-related subjects need reassessment if the UK is to continue to compete globally, says Carrie Hartnell, programme manager for trade group Intellect.
‘Science and technology subjects are not as rounded as they could be, which will lead to a lack of the diverse skills required to compete in innovation across all industries,’ said Hartnell.
Part of the challenge is that technology is still suffering from an image problem, says John Eary, a senior consultant at IT services company NCC Group.
‘Overall the report is disappointing, given all the efforts made in the past few years to improve the reputation of computing careers,’ he said.
Universities need to follow students’ progress and identify the areas where they need help, says NAO report author and senior analyst Sarah Perryman.
‘Targeted help with specific skills makes a big difference,’ she said.
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