In 2015 the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport funded the development of 45 pilot conversion courses at masters' level in engineering, data science, cyber security and computing.
The aim was to explore whether such courses could enable greater numbers of graduates from non-science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds to enter engineering-related and computer-related careers, where there are identified skills shortages.
About the courses
New courses were developed in these areas, and existing provision was broadened.
Providers adopted a range of course delivery approaches, including both full-time and part-time models. A number of providers created new flexible learning resources to support students from various backgrounds.
The conversion courses that appeared to be the most successful involved bespoke teaching for conversion students or an introductory module, together with additional personalised support.
Evaluation of the initiative found that enrolment in the courses exceeded expectations, suggesting that graduates are basing decisions to undertake further study on perceptions of labour market potential.
It also found that:
- students came from a variety of different subjects, ranging from ‘near-STEM’ subjects such as physics and maths, to ‘non-STEM’ subjects such as business or a social science
- many used the courses as an opportunity re-skill or upskill from existing employment
- around 60 per cent of the students were UK domiciled, which is higher than the proportion previously studying in this area
- over a third of students were over 30 years old
- three quarters of students undertaking data science or computing-related courses were returning to study after a break in education.
Final evaluation report
We have now published the final evaluation report of the programme which shows the successful development and delivery of conversion courses along with early indications of successful outcomes for the students taking them.
Although it is too early to assess the longer term impact of the courses in addressing the skills gaps in the engineering or computing sectors, feedback from those who completed these conversion courses and course leaders suggests that they are seeking or have already secured roles in relevant sectors and, therefore, are performing as well or better than students who entered postgraduate courses from closely-related subjects.
Read the evaluation report