Lords' recipe for great British tech: Make teenagers study maths

The government should make maths compulsory for all students over 16, to plug a skills gap at undergraduate level and build a qualified workforce for UK high tech industries, a House of Lords committee has urged

Maths should be compulsory for all students over 16 years of age to help provide qualified workers for the high-tech industry, according to a House of Lords committee.

People who have taken maths at A-level are turning up for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) degrees without the maths skills necessary for those courses, the Lords Science and Technology Committee said in a report on Tuesday. It noted that many undergraduates have to have remedial lessons when they begin university.

Maths should be compulsory for students post-16, a House of Lords committee has said.

"The government has made clear that education and high-tech industry is vital to its plans to generate economic growth," sub-committee chair Lord Willis said in a statement. "However, without a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce that will not be possible."

"It is vital therefore that higher education in the UK has a strong STEM sector and is able to produce the graduates and postgraduates high-tech industries will demand," he added.

According to the report, the government has failed to say exactly how it will support postgraduate STEM study, which the committee sees as being vital to encourage high-tech entrepreneurs . In addition, the authorities have not explained the benefits of further study in STEM, or taken steps to market STEM to potential postgraduates.

There could be a "triple-whammy" effect on postgraduate take-up of STEM places due to higher fees, a lack of student finance, and a tightening of immigration rules that could exclude foreign students, the report noted.

It is not clear whether the UK is turning out a sufficient number of graduates to cope with demand from employers, the committee noted. It recommended that a body be set up to provide real-time data analysis of STEM shortages.