400 million Government package for universities to encourage more women to become science and engineering students

Encouraging more women to study engineering and science at universities in England is one of the main aims of a 400 million Government funding package announced for the subjects.

The new money, which was announced by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts, will go towards improving science and engineering teaching at institutions up and down the country.

With figures showing that only 6% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female, Mr Willetts said that the package will have a particular focus on attracting more women into the industry through studying the subjects.

Government coffers will provide 200 million for the project and the cash will be matched by universities on at least a one-to-one basis. The resulting funds will be used to provide world-class facilities and teaching at science and engineering departments, boosting national university infrastructure.

As part of the conditions for being granted the funding, institutions will be required to provide evidence of equality and diversity to meet the aim of getting more women to take science and engineering at degree level.

Current regulations which mean that part-time students who have previously studied for a degree are denied access to support for fees are also to be partially relaxed. In effect, it means that tuition support will be available to anyone wishing to retrain part-time in engineering, technology and computer science.

The number of girls taking GCSE physics has jumped by 46% in the past three years in a sign that there could be more balance to the science and engineering sectors in years to come. Ministers are hoping that the increase in girls taking physics for GCSE will be reflected in the number who decide to take it at A-level as well.

This, as well as today's announcements, will support the National Centre for Universities and Business' (NCUB) ambition to double the proportion of engineering degrees taken by women from 16% now to 30% by 2030.

Mr Willetts added: "Investing in national infrastructure is a key part of this Government's economic strategy. This new funding will provide world-class, industry-standard facilities and teaching for students."

Copyright Press Association 2013