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£400m fund to boost engineering student numbers – and women in particular

The Government has announced plans to boost the numbers of students following science and engineering courses at English universities, with a particular focus on encouraging women into these subjects. Half the money for the scheme – £200million – will come from the Government, with a similar amount coming from universities.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Investing in national infrastructure is a key part of this Government's economic strategy. This new funding will provide world class, industry standard facilities and teaching for students. These facilities will also help bridge the gender gap that exists and give more incentives for women to retrain as engineers and to put their skills to great use.

"We will also reverse the rules which stop people from getting financial support to retrain in engineering and technology part time. This will ensure the nation has the skills we need to ensure our businesses stay ahead in the global race."

The new approach means that anyone wishing to retrain part time in engineering, technology and computer science will now be able to get some tuition support.

There has been a 46% increase in the number of girls taking GCSE physics since 2010 and, to build on this and to ensure that more women go on to pursue careers in science, the Government hopes to see more girls doing A level physics. The announcement will support the National Centre for Universities and Business' ambition to double the proportion of engineering degrees taken by women from 16% now to 30% by 2030.
Academic institutions will be invited to bid for a share of the Government's £200m, which will be administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

"We are inviting all who care about the future of science and engineering in our country to join us by signing up to this national ambition to increase the number of women entering science and engineering," Willetts concluded.

Graham Pitcher

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