'I Was Told It Was Going to Be Hard Work But I Wasn'T Told It Was Going to Be This Much Work': the Experiences and Aspirations of Undergraduate Science Students

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


The recruitment and training of scientists is an area of international concern. Much of the research and policy focus around this issue in the UK has been on how science is taught in schools and in particular on the structure of the school science curriculum. Much less attention has been devoted to the undergraduate student experience and the trajectory that learners take which can lead to higher education and into careers as professional scientists and technicians. This paper reports the findings from a comparative study of the experiences and aspirations of almost 1,000 art and science undergraduates studying at 6 elite British universities. There is no evidence to suggest that undergraduate scientists are put off a career in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics field, although theirs is arguably a less positive experience than that of their peers who study arts subjects. Most science undergraduates have clear career aspirations which are largely linked to remaining in the field and often involve further study. For many, these aspirations lead them towards the applied sciences and away from a career in 'pure' research or academia.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-326
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Science and Mathematics Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011


  • participation, science education, undergraduate students