British Science Association: Graduate Earnings and the STEM Premium

3 Jun 2019

In this, Pro Bono Economics’ second collaboration with the British Science Association (BSA) it was found that the Association’s CREST Silver Awards  programme only had to have a minor effect on university degree choice to deliver more societal benefits than it costs to run.

The BSA, which coordinates, delivers and oversees programmes aimed at engaging more people with science runs CREST as its flagship initiative for young people.  

In Pro Bono Economics’ first collaboration with the BSA in 2016, it was found that pupils who took part in the Silver Award were more likely to study Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) s at AS level. Following up from the previous findings, this new report examines the impact of participation in the CREST Silver Awards programme on the decision to study a STEM subject at university and the economic and social impact of an uptake in student enrolment levels with these subjects. 

A breakeven analysis was conducted to reveal if the expected benefits of the programme exceeded the programme costs. 

The approach used in this study was three-fold: 

  • Step One: Calculation of the earnings differential for graduates in STEM subjects. 
  • Step Two: Calculation of the cost of delivering the CREST Silver Award. 
  • Step Three: Estimation of the breakeven impact on STEM degree choice by comparing the economic benefits associated with higher earnings for graduates in STEM subjects to the cost per pupil of the CREST Silver Award programme. 

The report found that of the students doing the CREST Silver Award programme and going on to university, only three extra students need to study STEM subjects at university rather than non-STEM subjects to breakeven. This is equivalent to 0.2% of the 2017/2018 cohort of 1,275 CREST Silver Award programme students.  

Additionally, this breakeven level does not take into consideration the other potential impacts of the CREST programme, such as more students going on to university per se (even if choosing non-STEM subjects). 

Overall, this report suggests that even with a relatively small effect on degree choice, the CREST Silver Award programme contributes a positive net benefit to society. This evidence is stronger yet when linked alongside the previous Pro Bono Economics report for BSA, which found that the CREST Silver Award boosts attainment in science subjects at GCSE and increases the likelihood of choosing a STEM subject at AS level. 

Many thanks to volunteers Sergiu Cociu and Helene Beaujet from the National Audit Office and our Economic Associate Ian Moore for their hard work on this project. 

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