A Taste for Technology

Richard Kimbell
1979, Vol. 11, No. 2,


For far too long there has been a lamentable shortfall in the number of able students who wish to pursue technological studies in higher education, and only in recent months (in figures revealed by the Secretary of State for Education) has the situation begun to improve.

As early as 1963 the Department of Education at the University of Oxford published the results of a survey into the career choices made by sixth form students. Mr. D.W.Hutchins, in charge of the survey, 1 was able to demonstrate that the most intelligent sixth form students were not, at that time, taking up careers in engineering and applied science but were instead concentrating on the arts and pure sciences. Following this survey, in 1966 the Joint Matriculation Board examined the A level entries of their candidates subject by subject for the year 1964 and, comparing them with previous years, illustrated the alarming fact that when expressed as percentages:

'... increases of 4% for Mathematics, 3% for Physics, and 1% for Chemistry must be set against increases of 14% for English Literature, 17% for History, and 19% for Geography'. 2

The point was further elaborated by the publication in 1964 of the second report of the Universities Central Council of Admissions, which suggested that whilst a reasonable number of above average students were coming forward for pure science and technology, difficulties arose in this area:

'... when candidates with a comparatively poor performance have to be admitted in larger prop ortion to fill the vacancies'. 3

These problems have existed for at least one-and a-half decades. Nevertheless it was undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the Prime Minister to outline yet again these alarming facts, and enter the debate as to what might be done about it. 'Why is it that 30,000 vacancies for students in science and engineering in our Universities and Polytechnics were not taken up last year while the humanities courses were full?,

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