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The National HE STEM Programme

The National HE STEM Programme was an initiative funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales that ran from 2009 - 2012. Although focused around Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, it primarily supported the disciplines of Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematics and Physics. These STEM subjects were deemed strategically important and vulnerable, and were the subject of pilot project activities initiated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2005 and 2006.

The programme adopted a Hub and Spoke delivery model, with regional activities across the South West coordinated by the SW Spoke team at the University of Bath.

Three Strands of the Programme

Programme activities took place across three inter-related strands:

  1. Widening participation within the STEM disciplines at university level, by supporting HEIs to work with those currently within the school and FE sectors;
  2. Higher Education curriculum developments focusing on course delivery & design and student support, to enhance student knowledge, progression and skills;
  3. Encouraging those currently within the workforce and society without a prior university-level qualification to engage with further study to develop enhanced knowledge and skills.

Underpinning Principles of the Programme

There were four principles underpinning the programme:

  1. Widening Participation: A key focus of the National HE STEM Programme was upon widening participation within the STEM disciplines, and as such its implementation focused upon ensuring a broadening of the intake of learners into the STEM disciplines
  2. Employer Engagement: The programme engaged employers in an appropriate two-way manner; it focused upon what employers offered to the Higher Education sector, and also what the Higher Education sector offered to both employers and their employees
  3. Sustainability: Sustainability was a core focus of the programme. The sustainability of funded activities focused upon embedding activities within the curricula and core practices of higher education institutions, and also upon building and sustaining capacity within the sector. The programme sought to ensure that its activities informed and influenced future institutional strategies and priorities and that project outputs were disseminated widely
  4. Management: The National HE STEM Programme's activities were delivered by a range of partners across the HE sector and beyond. There was a need to ensure that activity was appropriately managed, monitored and informed, and that there was an efficient and effective transfer of practice amongst programme partners to avoid duplication of effort