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Robert Heinlein once wrote: "Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor."

The number of students going to UK universities is falling. Additionally, there's a record number of university dropouts, perhaps because they realize "the degree they have chosen is not going to help them get a good job." Meanwhile, the cost of university tuition is going up.

In an economy that seems to be getting worse every day, graduates are in a tough situation. As 85% of college grads move back home with their parents because they can't financially support themselves, it's understandable why it's becoming fashionable to consider a university degree essentially worthless. And there are certainly good alternatives to college.

science demotivational suddenly i careThings are getting so bad in academia that there are even calls for reforming or shutting down the awarding of science Ph.D.s because "the world is awash in Ph.D.s, most of them being awarded after years of study and tens of thousands of dollars to scholars who will never find work in academia, the traditional goal for Doctors of Philosophy."

Law school grads who can't find jobs have it easy: they just sue their school for $50 million. But you would think that science and engineering grads would have it easier. People who study science and engineering are typically highly intelligent. It stands to reason that such high intelligence should be properly sought out and rewarded. The skills they have make the world a much better place to live. To think that people with such skills aren't employable because there's an oversupply boggles the mind.

Should we be looking at education as a marketplace? Would society be better-off if governments sponsored (e.g., paid for, subsidized) more scientific research? Is it a good idea to be pushing people to attend universities when the market won't support them? Should universities suffer somehow when students don't get jobs after graduating (e.g., refund some portion of tuition fees, offer additional free courses)? Which scientific disciplines do you think we need more of?

One thing everyone seems to agree on is that we need more science graduates (and here I mean science, technology, engineering and maths graduates, a group usually abbreviated to STEM). There are not enough people taking science degrees and something must be done.

The excellent people at Teach First, an organisation that places graduates in challenging UK schools, are the latest to wade into the debate with their new report, Addressing the STEM Challenge. This calls for more science teachers so we can better teach young people science so more choose to study the subjects at university.

...we seem to have an awfully high unemployment rate for science graduates for a nation that apparently doesn't have enough of them. And, actually, the same goes for PhDs as well.

To give an example, last summer 12,000 psychology students and 10,000 history students graduated (I chose these subjects because they are two of the most popular - psychology is actually the fastest growing in the UK). In the same year, only 2200 physics students and 2400 chemistry students graduated (what's more, I'm a chemistry graduate and my wife a history graduate so it's a comparison that's close to my heart). But it was the physics graduates and chemistry graduates who were most likely to be out of work 6 months later.

From the cohort of graduates whose whereabouts were known about, 11 per cent of those physics graduates were still out of work 6 months after graduating, and only 3 per cent were in a job in science. (History and psychology did slightly better, at 8.5 per cent and 8 per cent of graduates unemployed respectively).

This is an issue because these are the figures that will be going onto the websites that the A-level students of the future will be using to check the employment prospects of the courses they're going to be paying a lot of money for. When they see the outcomes for science courses compared to other subject that aren't suffering a "shortage", some of them are going to wonder what on earth the fuss is about.

So, let's get it out there: Do we really have a shortage of science graduates?

Do we really need more science graduates?


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Jul 21, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=606

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