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Birmingham to host national STEM programme

The University of Birmingham will host the national HE programme for STEM subjects.

Strategically important subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

We are supporting and developing a number of projects to address issues of student demand for STEM subjects deemed to be both strategically important and vulnerable.

The term STEM, and in particular the 'science' element of it, covers a wide variety of disciplines. So far we are concentrating on chemistry, physics, engineering and maths.

Our approach is to address the core issues as they have been determined by subject communities made up of learners, educational providers, employers and regional bodies. In addition, we aim to encourage the joining together of current activities and a rationalisation of the large number of separate initiatives.

Projects will look to both increase and widen participation in STEM subjects. To support HEFCE's strategic aim to widen participation in higher education (HE), we have required key connections with Aimhigher, as the main national programme which aims to widen participation in HE by raising the aspirations and developing the abilities of young people from under-represented groups. By targeting the projects in this way, it is hoped that the projects will have a further effect of increasing participation more generally from all groups, based on the principle that if there is positive and measurable impact on the hardest to reach groups, there is likely to be a positive effect on all participants.

National programme

We are developing a national HE STEM programme to build on and integrate the successes of the demand-raising STEM pilot projects, and have appointed the University of Birmingham to host the programme.

The programme will run from August 2009 to July 2012, with a potential budget of £20 million. It will complement the Department for Children, Schools and Families national STEM programme, and ensure the subjects will not be in competition with one another for students. It will also respond to recent changes in the HE landscape, such as the increased focus on the higher-level skills agenda.

More about STEM and higher-level skills

Current projects

Details of funded projects are available.

Projects have been (or will be) required to show:

  • commitment to collaborative partnership with Aimhigher and other STEM-based projects
  • a clear demonstration of sector engagement
  • an evidence-based approach to interventions
  • consideration of regional differences
  • a clear framework for monitoring and evaluation
  • appropriate governance and risk management
  • evidence of long-term planning.

All of the projects benefit from a partnership approach designed to ensure effective collaboration between schools, colleges, higher education institutions and employers, and co-ordination between existing initiatives and organisations. These include (this list is not exhaustive):

We intend to encourage a culture of collaboration between projects by bringing such bodies together on a regular basis. We are also providing information to the Government as part of its cross-cutting review of STEM projects.

Monitoring and evaluation of projects

Each project will define its own criteria for success, in part determined by the scope of the project. More information on monitoring and evaluation criteria is available.

Additional funding for very high cost and vulnerable laboratory based subjects

In November 2006, we announced that we would also provide additional funding for three years to support those subjects that were very high cost, strategically important to the economy and society but vulnerable due to low student demand. HEFCE Circular letter 13/2007 provided further details on how this funding would be allocated.

The additional funding began in 2007-08 and supports chemistry; physics; chemical engineering; and mineral, metallurgy and materials engineering. It helps to maintain provision in these subjects in universities and colleges while demand from students grows.

Further information

For more information on our approach to STEM projects, Katie Germer, tel 0117 931 7153, e-mail

Last updated 19 May 2009