Educating the Nation: IV. Subject Choice

18 Aug 2017

This address tracks the choices made by students at English schools (O-Level, GCSE and A-Level) and at British universities (undergraduate degree) of what subjects to study over the whole of the period since the Second World War. There are marked long-term trends towards a greater diversity in subjects studied, especially at A-Level and degree level, and this tended to reduce over time the dominance of science, to the advantage of a range of subjects including social studies, traditional humanities and latterly creative arts. These trends reflect (most of all) the growing size and diversity of the student body staying on to further study, but also the broadening of the labour market which this more diverse body of students is entering, and social and cultural changes favouring creativity and self-expression in education. The address closes with a reflection on the possible significance of a very recent halting and even a reversal of these trends in subject choice, to the apparent benefit of the sciences.