Advertisement

‘I WAS TOLD IT WAS GOING TO BE HARD WORK BUT I WASN’T TOLD IT WAS GOING TO BE THIS MUCH WORK’: THE EXPERIENCES AND ASPIRATIONS OF UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCE STUDENTS

  • Emma SmithEmail author
  • Sandra Cooke
Article

ABSTRACT

The recruitment and training of scientists is an area of international concern. Much of the research and policy focus around this issue in the UK has been on how science is taught in schools and in particular on the structure of the school science curriculum. Much less attention has been devoted to the undergraduate student experience and the trajectory that learners take which can lead to higher education and into careers as professional scientists and technicians. This paper reports the findings from a comparative study of the experiences and aspirations of almost 1,000 art and science undergraduates studying at 6 elite British universities. There is no evidence to suggest that undergraduate scientists are put off a career in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field, although theirs is arguably a less positive experience than that of their peers who study arts subjects. Most science undergraduates have clear career aspirations which are largely linked to remaining in the field and often involve further study. For many, these aspirations lead them towards the applied sciences and away from a career in ‘pure’ research or academia.

KEY WORDS

participation science education undergraduate students 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Allen, F., & Davies, B. (2009). Vocational options: The impact of a vocational context on teaching and learning modern foreign languages at Key Stage 4. Language Learning Journal, 37(1), 51–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldwin, R. G. (2009). The climate for undergraduate teaching and learning in STEM fields, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 117, 9–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bennett, J., & Hogarth, S. (2005). Would YOU want to talk to a scientist at a party?: Students’ attitudes to school science and science. University of York Department of Educational Studies, Research Paper Series.Google Scholar
  4. Blonder, G. (2006). Scientists are born, not made. BusinessWeek, 19th September 2009. Accessed December, 2009, from www.businessweek.com/technology/content.sep2006/tc20060919_328381.htm
  5. Breakwell, G. M., & Robertson, T. (2001). The gender gap in science attitudes, parental and peer influences: Changes between 1987–88 and 1997–98. Public Understanding of Science, 10, 71–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, M. (2003). Students’ experiences of undergraduate mathematics. Full report of research activities and results, ESRC ref R000238564.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, G. (2009). The Romanes Lecture given at the Sheldonian Theatre Oxford, 27th February 2009. Accessed May, 2009, from www.number10.gov/Page18472
  8. Butz, W. P., Bloom, G. A., Gross, M. E., Kelly, T. K., Kofner, A., & Rippen, H. E. (2006). Is there a shortage of scientists and engineers? Issue Paper: Science and Technology. Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation.Google Scholar
  9. CBI (2008). Taking stock: CBI education and skills survey 2008. London: CBI. Accessed June, 2009, from http://www.cbi.org.uk/pdf/skills_report0408.pdf.Google Scholar
  10. Connor, H., Burton, R., Pearson, R., Pollard, E., & Regan, J. (1999). Making the right choice: How students choose universities and colleges. London: Institute for Employment Studies/CVCP.Google Scholar
  11. Convert, B. (2005). Europe and the crisis in scientific vocations. European Journal of Education, 40(4), 361–366.Google Scholar
  12. Dearing, R., & King, L. (2007). Languages review. London: DfES. www.teachernet.gov.uk/_doc/11124/LanguagesReview.pdf.Google Scholar
  13. DfES (2006). The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programme report. Accessed August, 2008, from www.dcsf.gov.uk/hegateway/uploads/STEM%20Programme%20Report.pdf
  14. Eisenhower, D. D (1957). Radio and television address to the American people on science in national security, 7th November 1957. Accessed December, 2009, from www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=10946
  15. Gago, J. M., Ziman, J., Caro, P., Constantinou, C., Davies, G., Parchmann, I., et al. (2004). Increasing Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe, Report of the High Level Group on Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe, Luxembourg, European Communities.Google Scholar
  16. Gorard, S. (2006). Towards a judgement-based statistical analysis. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 27(1), 67–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. HEFCE (2009). Strategically important subjects: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Retrieved from www.hefce.ac.uk/AboutUS/sis/stem.htm
  18. HMT (2004). Science and innovation investment framework 2004–2014. London: HM Treasury.Google Scholar
  19. Institute of Physics (2007). Tracking the careers of UK physics students, Institute of Physics project No. 1242, September 2007.Google Scholar
  20. ISCED (1997). UNESCO International Standard Classification of Education. Accessed November, 2009, from http://www.unesco.org/education/information/nfsunesco/doc/isced_1997.htm
  21. Jenkins, E. W., & Donnelly, J. F. (2006). Educational reform and the take-up of science post-16. Paper presented at the Royal Society conference ‘Increasing the take-up of science post-16’ March 16th 2006.Google Scholar
  22. Jenkins, E. W., & Nelson, N. W. (2005). Important but not for me: Students’ attitudes towards secondary school science in England. Research in Science and Technological Education, 23(1), 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Leitch Review of Skills (2006). Prosperity for all in the global economy—world class skills: Final report. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  24. National Academy of Sciences (2007). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Accessed November, 2009, from http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11463&page=86
  25. National Research Council. (2003). Evaluating and improving undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Accessed November, 2009, from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10024&page=R1.Google Scholar
  26. NERF (2005). Report of the working group on physical science and maths education. London: National Educational Research Forum.Google Scholar
  27. NFER (1998). An investigation of the factors affecting a decision whether or not to apply to Oxford and Cambridge. Slough, UK: National Foundation for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  28. Obama, B. (2009). Remarks by the President to the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting, 27th April 2009. Accessed November, 2009, from www.scribd.com/doc/14704415/President-Obamas-Speech-at-the-National-Academy-of-Science-April-27-2009-TranscriptVideo
  29. Osborne, J., & Collins, S. (2000). Pupils’ and parents’ views of the school curriculum. London: Kings College London.Google Scholar
  30. Osborne, J., Simon, S., & Collins, S. (2003). Attitudes towards science: A review of the literature and its implications. International Journal of Science Education, 25(9), 1049–1079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. OECD (2004). OECD science, technology and industry outlook. Paris, France: OECD.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Prados, J. W. (1998). Engineering education in the United States: Past, present, future. Accessed December, 2009, from www.ineer.org/Events/ICEE1998/Icee/papers/255.pdf
  33. Prime Minister John Major (1993). Speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet. Accessed December, 2009, from www.johnmajor.co.uk/speechlordmauor1993.html
  34. QCA (2005). Science: Changes to the curriculum from September 2006. London: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.Google Scholar
  35. Roberts, G. (2002). SET for success: The study of people with science, technology engineering and mathematical skills. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  36. Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  37. Smith, E. (2010). Do we need more scientists? A long term view of patterns of participation in UK Undergraduate Science Programmes. Cambridge Journal of Education, 40(4).Google Scholar
  38. Smith, E. (2009). Who is studying science? An analysis of patterns in the recruitment, training and employment of scientists. ESRC End of Award Report, RES-22-00-2005.Google Scholar
  39. Society of Chemical Industry (2006). Strategic chemistry-based science education into the 21st century, paper 2. London: SOCI Insight.Google Scholar
  40. Times Higher Education Supplement (2006, 17th March). Chemistry cuts lead to fears for other subjects. The Times Higher Education Supplement, p. 4.Google Scholar
  41. The White House (2009). Educate to Innovate. Accessed December, 2009, from www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/educate-innovate
  42. Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. 2nd. ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  43. Tobias, S. (1990). They’re not dumb, they’re different: Stalking the second tier. Tucson, AZ: Research Corporation.Google Scholar
  44. Whitehead, J., Raffan, J., & Deaney, R. (2006). University choice: What influences the decisions of academically successful post-16 students? Higher Education Quarterly, 60(1), 4–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yorke, M. (1999). Leaving early: Undergraduate non-completion in higher education. Taylor & Francis, London.Google Scholar
  46. Yorke, M., & Longden, B. (2008). The first-year experience of higher education in the UK: Final Report. York: The Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
  47. Zinberg, D. (1971). The widening gap: Attitudes of first year students and staff towards chemistry, science careers and commitment. Science Studies, 1(3/4), 287–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© National Science Council, Taiwan 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations