More engineering students, but electronics still struggles

1 min read

The latest figures from university application handler UCAS make interesting reading. Not only is the number of people applying to go to university increasing (after the recent blip caused by the increase in tuition fees), but so are the numbers looking to read engineering.

For the 2013 intake, 27,155 students were accepted onto engineering courses, representing 5.5% of all students. Not only is this the largest number since 2008, it's also the highest percentage of entrants. However, the electronics intake remains low. According to the data, there were 23,640 applications in the 2013 cycle to follow electronics and electrical engineering courses (one student can make up to five applications), with 4845 students being accepted. There has been widespread effort to encourage school students to follow engineering courses at university; these figures suggest those efforts are succeeding. But the efforts to promote electronics appear not to have been so successful. Look back over the last six years and the number of students following E&E courses has remained pretty static. In 2008, 4810 people entered university to read E&E; in 2013, it was 4845. Go back to 2000 and the numbers were much closer to 8000. It's been said in the past that students don't want to do electronics because it's 'too hard' and that computer science, for example, is 'easier'. Is that true? Or is it the fact that because electronics is pervasive, it's also invisible? Do we, as an industry, do enough to highlight just how important electronics is to modern life? Do we do enough to highlight the opportunities of a career in electronics and how people can shape the future? It's not an easy problem to solve. The UK Electronics Skills Foundation, amongst others, is trying to promote the industry and has the backing on some big electronics companies. Other companies work directly with local schools, while the Engineering Development Trust has the Headstart programme for schools. And there are other schemes. If electronics is as important to the UK's economy as we are told – ESCO says electronics, in its broadest sense, contributes £80billion to GDP and supports 850,000 jobs – then perhaps it should get a much higher profile than it does today.