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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Maths departments 'under threat'
A-level candidates
Fewer sixth-formers took maths A-level this year
A quarter of UK university maths departments face closure or major cuts as students are increasingly choosing to study other subjects, according to academics.

Employers are now warning the country faces a damaging shortage of professional mathematicians.

The BBC's education correspondent Sue Littlemore says university mathematicians have seen their subject decline throughout the past decade

This year fewer sixth-formers took maths A-level, and there has been an 11% slump in applications to do a maths degree.


Pupils tend not to take a subject they perceive they are going to fail at

Cheryl Periton, Association of Teachers of Maths

Our correspondent says many pupils who took AS-level maths last year were discouraged by their results.

Almost one out of every three candidates failed - twice the failure rate across other subjects.

Review

This prompted many students to take other subjects, such as drama and psychology, at A-level.

Cheryl Periton, of the Association of Teachers of Maths, told BBC News: "With this year's Lower Sixth there was a lower take-up partly because last year's cohorts discussed their poor results.


The course covered so much new stuff I found it really difficult to keep up with the workload

A-level student Kate Simonds

"Pupils tend not to take a subject they perceive they are going to fail at."

Kate Simonds, one student who decided to drop maths, told the BBC: "The course covered so much new stuff I found it really difficult to keep up with the workload.

"I could not face doing that for another year."

The government has launched a review of maths teaching.

But Professor Adam Wheeler, of Southampton University, said a fall in the number of mathematics departments was already inevitable.

"A quarter of UK maths departments are under some sort of threat - be it closure or a reduction in size," he said.

See also:

10 Aug 02 | Education
23 Jul 02 | Education
03 Mar 01 | Education
02 Jul 01 | Education
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