16 January 2017

UK chemical engineering intake down for the first time in more than a decade

Chemical engineer

New figures released by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), show a 12% fall in students opting to study for a degree in chemical engineering.

For the first time since the turn of the millennium, application and intake figures in 2016 fell from 23,125 to 20,325 and 3,775 to 3,300 respectively, according to the latest report from the UK’s central organisation for processing applications to higher education programmes.

The report also reveals that just under a quarter (24%) of the chemical engineering intake in 2016 originated from outside the UK – a marked fall from the 36% share in 2006.

However, chemical engineering still remains one of the strongest engineering disciplines for female undergraduates, who account for 26% of the total 2016 intake figure. Diversity has improved across all engineering disciplines according to the findings, with a 5% increase in the number of women studying UK engineering courses since 2007.

Responding to the report, Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) Director Andy Furlong said:
“This year’s figures suggest that the phenomenal level of interest in chemical engineering peaked in 2015, and we are now seeing a cooling in demand for places.

“IChemE is receiving reports of a graduate oversupply, particularly in light of the challenges facing the energy sector, which has traditionally hired a good proportion of chemical engineering graduates. In addition, the UK government has placed a major focus on apprenticeships. Young people today have a wider choice of routes into technical roles.

From a social mobility perspective this is good news, and IChemE is working with a number of major employers to offer apprentices and engineering technicians flexible routes to professional registration.

“Chemical engineering is still an excellent degree choice for young people, given the transferability of the skill set to a wide variety of industry roles. There are significant opportunities coming down the track in areas including energy storage, biotechnology, new nuclear power generation and the manufacture of smart materials. I’m optimistic that most of our chemical engineering graduates will find employment that makes good use of their considerable talents."

IChemE will continue to monitor University intake, application and graduation figures, and work with university departments and employers to highlight the diversity of opportunities for chemical engineering graduates.

In response to the changing employment market, the Institution is planning to refresh its hugely successful whynotchemeng careers campaign for 2017. More information about the initiative is available via http://www.whynotchemeng.com.

As well as its industry links, IChemE has strong academic ties in the UK. Most recently, it promoted the contributions academic chemical engineers have made to industry and society at an event in the House of Lords. Ten case studies, which are available at http://bit.ly/CEMresearch, have been published to show the application of chemical engineering research in the areas of energy, food, water, and human health and wellbeing.

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IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).