Far too few people in the UK have the quantitative skills needed by employers and policy-makers, according to a paper published this week by the British Academy. It argues the deficit has
Serious implications for the future of the UK’s status as a world leader in research and higher education, for the employability of our graduates, and for the competitiveness of the UK’s economy.
As increasing amounts of data becomes available in large-scale databases, public debate will increasingly turn on statistical arguments, the group said, and it is therefore essential to provide citizens with the ability to understand, analyse and criticise data – indeed, this will be “ever more integral to the functioning of a democracy”.
The report comes as a new £15.5m funding programme is launched by the Economic & Social Research Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Nuffield Foundation, aiming to boost quantitative methods training in UK universities’ social science departments. Up to 15 universities will receive funding to become centres of excellence for quantitative methods training.
The British Academy traces the skills deficit back to school level, where the UK lags behind many other countries in the proportion of pupils studying maths at upper secondary level (beyond 16). This was illustrated in a paper for the Nuffield Foundation in 2010.