According to new analysis by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) the proportion of women studying engineering and technology related courses has remained virtually static since 2012 at almost every level of education.  

The proportion of those studying GCSE physics who are female has risen from 39.9% to 49% but at A-level it has dropped from 23.1% to 21.1%, and at undergraduate level from 15.7% to 14%. Postgraduate level is the only other area where there has been an increase – from 19.3% to 23.2%. This has resulted in a tiny increase in the proportion of engineering professionals who are women from 5.8% to 7% in 12 years. This despite years of initiatives and huge investment.

Earlier this year the government announced an ambition, previously announced by NCUB, to double the proportion of women studying engineering at university by 2030. Progress towards that target is monitored in NCUB’s annual Target 2030 Dashboard, the latest of which is released today containing the above figures.

Olivia Jones, a chartered engineer and NCUB Talent 2030 Project Manager, said:

“Progress is being made at the secondary level but this isn’t being reflected further up the educational ladder. It’s clear that more urgent and consistent action is needed to ensure that progress at secondary level carries on throughout women’s education.

“Now that the government also holds our ambition to double the proportion of women studying engineering at university I hope that others will see that we’re missing out on large numbers of talented women pursuing engineering careers and boosting employers and the economy.”

The release of the Dashboard follows the opening of NCUB’s second National Engineering Competition for Girls. Any girl at secondary school can enter individually or in groups, and independently or through their school. They need to find a creative way to explain existing engineering solutions to the world’s challenges or invent devise their own solutions. Students could tackle anything from climate change, to housing scarcity, to transport, to food shortages, or anything else they think engineering could help solve.

The winner of each age category wins £500 for them and £500 for their school as well an engineering mentor to help them if they’re thinking about a career in engineering. There are also £100 prizes for runners-up in each category and the finalists will have the opportunity to display their entries at the Big Bang Fair 2015 with another £200 prize for the best display.

Speaking about the competition, Olivia Jones said:

“Engineers will find solutions for most of the biggest problems of the 21st century but unfortunately there aren’t enough women getting their great ideas in the mix.”

“The competition is a great opportunity for young women to tackle the big issues that interest them and find out more about engineering. We hope that they’ll see that engineering can thousands of forms and that they’ll think about a job in the field in future.”

Professor Dame Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, said:

“It is very impressive to see the rise in both numbers and percentage of girls taking GCSE physics in the past 10 years. We need to make sure that we persuade more of these young women to come into engineering. We clearly haven’t been very successful with their predecessors –  the proportions of women studying engineering and technology have remained depressingly static over the same period.

“With a better understanding both of what makes girls, and their parents and teachers, think they won’t do well at these subjects, and of how to support them in their careers, we can change this, and we must.”

Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering commented: 

“I passionately believe that engineering is an excellent career to choose, providing excellent salaries, immense job satisfaction, career progression and the opportunity for social mobility for talented people regardless of their background. So it is pleasing to see that number of women and men taking A level Physics is increasing, but the change is not at the scale or pace needed.”

Dr Carol Marsh, President of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) added:

“WES is really proud to support this brilliant Talent 2030 Dashboard. There is no doubt that there is a skills shortage in engineering and it is important that we engage females to plug this gap. Engineering is a creative and rewarding career and we must embrace diversity to ensure the future of engineering in the UK”

Roma Agrawal, Structural Engineer, WSP said:

“While I’m pleased to see that the number of girls taking GCSE physics is on the rise, it is sobering to note that the uptake at A-level is now lower than it was 12 years ago. Female representation in the engineering profession similarly has barely budged in the last decade. We need to work harder and smarter in order to shift these trends. We need to inspire more people to become eng, neers, else we face a real threat to the UK economy.”

Yewande Akinola, 2012/2013 UK Young Woman Engineer of the Year (Institute of Engineering & Technology and Presenter said: 

“The latest statistics provide every reason for continued and increased efforts to spread and support the message of ‘Engineering is also for females’. We are dealing with decades of a misrepresentation of what a career in engineering really is; decades of people being told they do not have the intelligence or ability to pursue STEM careers; decades of a perceived disconnect between creativity and engineering, and now, that has to change.” 


Notes to Editors:

To arrange for comment and press enquires, please contact the NCUB Press Office.

Calculations in the Talent 2030 Dashboard were based on data from the Joint Council for Qualifications (GCSE and A-Level), Higher Education Statistics Agency (Undergraduate and Postgraduate) and Office for National Statistics (Engineering professionals).

You can find the full Talent 2030 Dashboard here.

Competition details

Posters, fact sheets and other resources are available for teachers and STEM ambassadors to help them run the competition as a classroom or extracurricular activity. Resources can be requested from

Who can enter:

  • The competition is open to all female students in secondary education
  • Girls can enter independently or through their schools
  • There are 3 different age categories (11-14 (Y7-9), 15-16 (Y10-11) and 17-18 (Y12-13))
  • Girls can enter individually or in groups of up to 6
  • Open to girls from all subject areas
  • One entry per group/individual (schools can submit multiple entries but girls cannot)

Key dates:

  • Competition entry open: 29th September 2014
  • Competition entry deadline: 4pm on 19th December 2014
  • Big Bang Fair: All shortlisted finalists are invited to attend the Big Bang Fair on Saturday 14th March 2015. To find out more about the fair visit: 


  • £1000 for the winner of each category! £500 for the student(s) and £500 for their school.
  • £100 for each runner-up entry! 3 runner-up places in each category.
    (prize money to be shared between all entrants for team entries)
  • Engineering mentor for each category winner
  • All competition entrants have the opportunity to get a Bronze, Silver or Gold CREST Award. Shortlisted finalists who qualify for the award will have their registration costs refunded.
  • Free membership to the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) for the winners and runner-ups
  • £200 for the best display at the Big Bang Fair: All shortlisted finalists will be invited to showcase their entries at the Big Bang Fair and £200 will be awarded to the best exhibition and project explanation on the day.