Engineers, university professionals, and education experts have contributed their ideas to a report on the future of higher education.

Enquiry-based learning could lead more pupils into engineering

Enquiry-based learning could help attract more young people to engineering degrees, an engineering organisation says.

As part of Blue Skies: New thinking about the future of higher education, a report published by the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning, EngineeringUK has addressed the question of whether schools and other routes are producing the right foundations for higher education.

Times Higher Education, the Russell Group, and the National Union of Students are some of other organisations that have contributed essays and videos outlining their views on the future of higher education.

Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK, says in his video that wide-spread use of enquiry-based learning is a solution for leading more young people into engineering degrees.

Enquiry-based learning could provide a practical basis for the graduates of the future and also help in the early stages of schooling, especially in Year 8, when a pupils motivation and performance in academic subjects, including science and maths, dips.

Young people were also ruling themselves out of engineering degrees at age 13-14, because they did not continue to study maths and physics at A-level – subjects required for entry into almost all university engineering degrees, Jackson said.

“The imperative to encourage young people to study STEM subjects is clear: they, and not us, will be responsible for helping to harness future technological advances which will address grand challenges such as climate change, ageing populations, food scarcity, clean water, security and infrastructure renewal, thereby helping businesses to create new jobs, rebalance the UK economy and ensure we remain a key engineering and manufacturing global player. If, however, young people continue to rule themselves out of an engineering degree by the age of 14, the pipeline of future engineers, and ultimately the country as a whole, will lose out.

“Is now the time to challenge the traditional thinking behind a relatively narrow A-level curriculum, embracing genuine enquiry-based learning and vocational routes, to lay the foundations for effective higher education provision in engineering? One thing is certain, if we just keep doing things the same way, we’ll keep getting the same results,” Jackson said.

Pearson UK president Rod Bristow said: “These days more students than ever before want degree level education. Despite pressures on funding and access, I predict that the growth in participation in Higher Education will be relentless. But there will surely be changes in the nature of the HE that students want.  Decisions made now will have a major impact on the future. That’s why we are supporting this collection of essays, providing a platform for new ideas and debate.”

To view the collection of ideas about from representatives across higher education click here

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