Part 2 - General Policy Context, Science Definition and Report Methodology
The UK Government and the Scottish Executive recognise the importance of ensuring a steady flow of science, engineering and technology graduates to meet demand in the economy. Interest has been growing in this area since the publication by the UK Government in 2002 of " SET for Success: Report of Sir Gareth Roberts' Review". A number of reports have been commissioned in recent years to provide a more detailed picture of developments in terms of UK science graduates in the labour market. In 2006, the main finding was that the UK has improved its position on OECD countries in terms of supply of graduates. Overall supply is increasing at a steady rate with some variation in individual subject lines, and the UK stock of science graduates is projected to rise. UK reports suggest that at a broad level, supply will meet demand although there may be problems in specific subject areas. Science graduates enjoy a high rate of employment. These findings are broadly in line with the information presented in this study on the current Scottish position.
The Scottish Executive's science and innovation strategy, "A Science Strategy for Scotland", published in 2001 recognises that science and innovation are the cornerstones of Scotland's future. It identifies the need to "ensure that enough people study science to a standard which will enable the future needs of the country to be met" as one of five major interlinked themes in the promotion and development of the science base.
Since the publication of the science strategy, the Executive has implemented a range of measures to boost science teaching and support across primary, secondary and tertiary education, and complementary informal provision in its science centres. Careers Scotland is also helping young people to consider the wide range of career opportunities that science courses can lead to. This progress is reflected in "A Science Strategy for Scotland 2001 - Progress report" published in February 2006.
The Scottish Executive is consulting on the measures we will need to develop in the future to modernise science education, promote science careers and increase public engagement with science as part of the current round of work on its science and innovation strategy.
Recent UK Reports
The UK"Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014" commits the UK Government to review annually the relative balance between the supply of and demand for science 1 skills. The annual report on the Framework in 2006, "Science and innovation investment framework 2004-2014: next steps" shows that in terms of OECD Countries, the UK compares favourably on supply of these skills, and its relative position has improved. The report suggests that an increasing number of entrants to Higher Education are attracted to Subjects Allied to Medicine with a decrease in the numbers of entrants to Engineering and Physical Sciences. Projections suggest an increasing demand for these skills over the next ten years and that supply is likely to increase to meet this, except in Engineering and Physical Sciences.
Part of the annual monitoring work for the 10 Year Framework was compiled through a DfES report, "The Supply and Demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Skills in the UK Economy" (Research Report RR775). It highlights a number of interesting trends and concludes that the UK's stock of science and engineering graduates compares well internationally and is increasing at a steady rate. Some specific findings of interest in the report in terms of UK science graduates are:
- In 2003, the UK had the largest increase in both the absolute number of STEM graduates, and as a proportion of growth per 100,000 persons in employment (25 to 34 years of age ). By this measure the stock of 20-29 year old STEM graduates in the UK increased by 16% since 2000. 2
- There are higher graduate earnings premia for Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering compared to all degrees in terms of the additional lifetime earnings of graduates. 3
- The stock of STEM graduates is projected to rise by 62% from 2004 to 2014, with the highest growth in Subjects Allied to Medicine (113%); then Biological Science (77%); then Mathematical and Computer Science (70% each). Engineering is predicted to rise by 36% and Physical Science by 32%.
- At a broad level in the UK, supply is likely to increase to meet the increase in demand for STEM skills over the next 10 years. However, there may be problems with specific subjects. On current trends, the increases in supply to Engineering and Physical Sciences are relatively low and with over half the graduates in these subjects not going on to STEM occupations straight away, there is a possibility that demand for these skills will not be met by supply. Still, the increasing returns to Engineering suggest that the market for these skills is adjusting to the reduced flow.
The recent DTI Economics Paper No.16: " Science, Engineering and Technology Skills in the UK" examined a range of data sources on the supply and demand of Science, Engineering and Technology ( SET) skills in the UK. In general, they found that the supply of SET skills is strong. There has been substantial growth in the numbers of graduates with SET qualifications, with some variation by subject. The report also found the labour market for those with SET qualifications to be strong. SET graduates have high employment rates and continue to receive a wage premium for their skills. This suggests that the demand for such workers has kept up with expanding supply.
The DTI report also included forecasts of the employment pattern for Science, Engineering and Technology workers over the next decade to 2014. The projections are taken from the Sector Skills Development Agency's ( SSDA) forecasts and are produced using the same model as Futureskills Scotland's labour market projections. The results from the DTI paper are similar with employment in each of the science occupations expected to grow at a faster rate between 2004 and 2014 than that expected for all occupations.
The Labour Market Trends feature: " Scientist, engineers and technologists in Great Britain" (Labour Market Trends, April 2006) 4 found that there is unlikely to be a shortage for SET skills in the near future. Analysis of employment and wages suggests that demand for science skills has matched the growth in supply. Unemployment and inactivity among SET graduates is relatively low with labour market outcomes being slightly better than those for other graduates. Furthermore, the inflows of new SET graduates are generally rising fast and this means that, unlike the working age population as a whole, SET graduates are not an ageing population.
Methodology and Data Sources in this Report
As there is no commonly accepted definition of "science", a number of definitions have been used throughout this report reflecting the different data sources used. Every attempt has been made to gather meaningful data. Data has been sourced as follows:
- For the sections about science graduates the Principal Subject or " JACS" codes to define the Medical, Life and Physical Sciences for graduates and undergraduates are used;
- For the section on employers' views, the science industry is defined using Standard Industry Classification ( SIC) codes; and
- For the sections on the demand for scientists in the future define science occupations are defined using Standard Occupational Classification ( SOC) 2000 codes.
A full description of the definitions of science used in this report can be found in the Annexes.
Data has been compiled from a number of sources including:
- long term HESA data on the numbers of science entrants at both first degree and postgraduate level over the period 1996-97 to 2004-05 (This includes comparative data on students studying in Scotland from other domiciles);
- short term HESA data exploring changes at the principal subject level within each of the science subject areas over the period 2002-03 to 2004-05;
- On Track: Class of 2004 (Sweep Two) and Scotland's Class of '99 data;
- Higher Education Graduates and Graduate Destinations 2004-05 published by the Scottish Executive;
- Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, which is the official source of pay estimates; and
- Futureskills Scotland's 2004 Employers Skills Surveys and Labour Market Forecasts to 2014.
What the report does not include
The supply side information on graduate entrants excludes information on qualifications likely to be gained by those qualifiying to technician level.
However information on science occupations and industries in this report is likely to include information concerning those with broader science skills.
(Please refer to annexes 1 and 2 and Chapter 2 for more information on report definitions and methodology.)
Clearly more detailed information on the supply and demand of science technicians would be a useful area for futher investigation. The college sector plays a key role in this area.