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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
University students 'lack basic maths'
Student maths lesson
Students are being given extra help with maths
Universities across the UK are having to offer undergraduates special tuition in mathematics to bring them up to scratch.

As concerns that A-levels are becoming less rigorous grow, academics running maths, engineering and science courses in up to 50 universities are testing their new students to assess where weaknesses may lie.


Something has to be done for these ill-prepared students - many of whom have good grades

Professor Mark Savage
Students are then being offered extra support to bring their maths skills up to the required level for undergraduate study.

Professor Mark Savage from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Leeds University said the evidence of a decline in basic skills was solid and well-documented.

"Academics in the front line," said Professor Savage.

"Faced with increasing numbers of mathematically ill-prepared students, they are tired of hearing the now familiar mantra from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - 'A-level standards are being maintained'.

"Like King Canute, QCA is desperately trying to hold back the sea despite mounting evidence to the contrary!

"Something has to be done for these ill-prepared students - many of whom have good grades."

Widespread concerns

Professor Savage said the problem was widespread, ranging from civic university to former polytechnics and from Oxbridge to Warwick.

He has been awarded a grant of 250,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to produce materials to help ease students' transition from school to university maths study.

The help will be delivered on DVD-Rom and online via a web-based learning support centre.

Weaknesses

Dr Dave Graham, who is leading a project at Plymouth University in Devon, backs the concerns of Professor Savage.

"My colleagues and myself have found that some students have problems with mathematics and this might affect the rest of their studies," said Dr Graham.

"And it's not just mathematics or statistics modules, it's anything that involves any numerological argument.

"So what we want to try to do is identify where they are weak and, hopefully, help them to overcome those weaknesses."

See also:

26 Sep 02 | Education
26 Sep 02 | Education
25 Aug 02 | Education
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