Ambitious plans by Brunel University London to re-balance the gender gap in science, engineering, technology and maths-based careers have been boosted by a £5m capital grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
With the cash Brunel intends to refurbish its facilities to grow its engineering undergraduate programmes 5% a year for the next five years and further increase those taking the apprenticeship route through its sponsorship of the Heathrow Aviation Engineering University Technical College.
But key to the growth plans, said Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Prof Geoff Rodgers, is working with schools and other stakeholders to create a step-change in the number of girls studying engineering and science subjects. At first locally in West London, and then nationwide.
Prof Rodgers said: “Our new facilities will be the springboard for not only a large increase in desperately needed engineering and other STEM subject graduates but will take an integrated approach to attracting many more girls into studying maths, physics and computing to A-level and beyond.
“At the heart of our new facilities will be a STEM Outreach Lab which will wow 30,000 school pupils a year on and off campus. Key to its success will be harnessing the enthusiasm and knowledge of our students as they go out as Brunel Student STEM Ambassadors.
“And we know that our programme needs to engage with pupils at different stages of their schooling so that the role model influence is regularly reinforced.
“We also know from our pilot, HEFCE-funded, Women in Engineering programme that female STEM students hugely benefit from mentoring and “soft skills” training and we will be looking at extending our current scheme to undergraduate and Diploma in Engineering level.
“But as one of the UK’s top ten universities for STEM and one of the largest, we know we have a wider responsibility to helping crack the gender imbalance issue so we plan to become a national centre of excellence bringing industry, education and policy-makers together to solve it once and for all.”
Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable said: “Inspiring young people to take up STEM courses is vital to the success of the UK economy. This investment will mean world-class teaching facilities to build tomorrow's skilled workforce. It's just one way we are ensuring the UK remains a world leader in science and research.”