Universities must back special maths schools to keep UK competitive

Too many British students lack the necessary maths skills to excel in their degrees, according to Education Minister Elizabeth Truss

Universities are being urged to back specialist maths schools amid concerns they are being forced to fill degree places with students from overseas.

English teenagers are missing out on university courses and career opportunities because they do not have decent maths skills, according to Education Minister Elizabeth Truss.

She claimed that many universities are complaining about a lack of students who have studied maths after age 16, which is putting the UK at a disadvantage internationally.

In a speech, Ms Truss called on institutions to support new maths free schools, which she argues will give teenagers from poorer homes the knowledge they need to study maths at degree level.

Exeter University and King's College London are already due to open maths free schools next year, she told the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education's (ACME) annual conference.

"Other universities have already sponsored or partnered academies specialising in maths. We want this movement to spread still further," she said.

Institutions will be able to apply to sponsor new maths free schools through a fast-track system, Ms Truss said.

"These schools will not only improve standards in maths teaching, working with local schools, but they will also equip talented young people from low income backgrounds with the skills they need to study maths at university."

Speaking after, Ms Truss suggested it was down to universities submitting their proposals to state how they will recruit students from poorer homes.

The minister told the conference that these new schools will help to widen access to top universities.

"One of my concerns is that some of the gaps between low income students and high income students are greater in the maths and sciences than they are in arts and humanities," she said.

"I hope this is the start of a new network of world class free schools under top universities helping prepare talented 16-19-year-olds from any and every background for the demands of university study," she added.

Ms Truss insisted that one of the "most important" things is to get more teenagers to continue studying maths beyond GCSE.

"We know our country is way behind our competitors in this respect," she told delegates.

"Around 85 per cent of young people in Japan study virtually the equivalent of maths A-level; it's only 20 cent here."

She claimed that figures had shown that in 2009, around 330,000 students started higher education courses that required some element of maths, but only 125,000 young people had studied the subject.

"A lot of universities are complaining that they can't find enough home students with adequate maths," she argued.

"Forty-six per cent chemistry students have not studied mathematics at A-level. For computer science the figure increases to over 64 per cent. And as a result, English students are missing out."

She said that in 2012 a large proportion of students recruited onto the electrical engineering course at Imperial College were from overseas.

Ms Truss also described a chance meeting on a train with a German biologist who had described new industries opening up in areas such as biomechanics.

"What he had observed is that many of these new areas of biology are effectively closed to English biology students because they require advanced mathematical skills - A-level, at least - and only 30 per cent of English biology undergraduates have studied A-level maths. So all of these exciting new areas are not open to our students."

PA

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness