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The team behind the work describing 'Science Capital' have released their final report looking at Young People’s STEM Trajectories (Age 10-22), as well as subject-specific reports on trajectories in Chemistry, Computing, Engineering and Mathematics.

ASPIRES is a long-term research study that has followed a cohort of thousands young people born between 1998 and 1999. Over three funded stages, they have sought to understand the factors shaping their trajectories: ASPIRES (age 10 to 14), ASPIRES2 (age 14 to 19) and ASPIRES3 (age 20 to 22). 

"Our award-winning research draws attention to the shifting influence of families, schools, careers education, disciplinary cultures, luck, education policy, and social identities and inequalities – examining how these variously shape who aspires and chooses to study and/or work in STEM fields, and who does not." - Prof Louise Archer (UCL).

This research offers valuable insights, especially for those involved in science engagement initiatives for youth.

Key Findings:

  • Notable participation in STEM subjects at A-Level, particularly in Mathematics, yet lower in fields like Physics and Engineering.
  • Persistent gender disparities, with underrepresentation of women in areas like Physics and Computing.
  • Black students and those from deprived backgrounds are less represented in STEM degrees.
  • Influences on STEM pathways include identity alignment with STEM, access to resources, and the culture within STEM disciplines.
  • Young people from less privileged backgrounds may depend more on luck to access key forms of 'capital' to become socially mobile.

Recommendations focus on fostering diverse STEM identities, challenging stereotypes about innate STEM ability, addressing the effects of curriculum choices, combating sexism, and improving equity and access to opportunities and other key forms of science capital.

For university staff and researchers, these insights underscore the importance of inclusive, context-sensitive approaches in developing science engagement programs. The report has further insights about supporting retention within degrees.

Click here to read the full report