Universities’ entry requirements, graduate outcomes and diversity in the Mathematical Sciences

The Council for the Mathematical Sciences (CMS) and the Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences (HoDoMS) asked Ortus to undertake research to examine the landscape regarding recruitment to mathematical sciences first degree subjects across the UK and the outcomes achieved by graduates from these degrees. The research sought to examine pre-university entry attainment patterns (i.e. A-levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland) and to examine diversity from the perspectives of sex and socio-economic background in relation to graduate outcomes. The aim of the study was to help inform a better understanding of how such diversity relates to mathematical sciences graduates’ careers.

The research involved analysis of secondary data from UCAS and the Higher Educations Statistics Agency to explore how mathematical sciences students’ sex and socio-economic background, and universities’ differing entry requirements, relate to graduate outcomes in terms of further study and/or employment, and the types of jobs mathematical sciences graduates do.

The research found little in the proportion of graduates going on to further study and/or employment based on their institutions’ entry requirements. Women were slightly more likely to do so than men, but there was little difference by socio-economic background.

Most mathematical sciences graduates who enter employment are working in managerial, professional and associate professional occupations – those usually considered to be ‘graduate jobs’. However, graduates from institutions with higher entry requirements are more likely to do so than those from institutions with lower entry requirements. Additionally, the sectors graduates work in differ by institutions’ entry requirements, with graduates from institutions with higher entry requirements more likely to work in financial industries, and those from institutions with lower entry requirements more likely to work in education, including teaching.

The research shows that a landscape of mathematical sciences programmes with diverse entry requirements in higher education is beneficial to ensuring the future supply of mathematical sciences graduates, and mathematics teachers, in order to support innovation and economic growth in the UK. These findings have important implications for universities in the context of recruitment to mathematical sciences degrees, and government policy which recognises the importance of mathematics skills.

The report can be accessed here.

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