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Promise of £1,000 for straight As at A-level

20-07-2007

Promise of £1,000 for straight As at A-level

20/07/2007 The Irish News


A-level students are to be offered cash rewards by Queen's University Belfast if they can achieve straight As.

Bonuses of £1,000 will be paid to any pupil leaving school next summer with three or more

A grades if they pursue science or engineering degrees.

Up to 2,000 students could benefit from the new scholarships designed to reverse a decline in interest in technology, science and maths subjects.

In an interview today Queen's vice chancellor Peter Gregson says the university was working to promote greater participation in Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses.

Industry leaders already fear a lack of technical know-how be-cause universities are training too few maths and science teachers.

The lack of staff is being blamed for causing more students to turn their backs on such careers.

Exam boards have also recognised the problem and are introducing new qualifications which aim to stem the flow of pupils away from subjects including physics.

Cambridge International Examinations' new physics 'Pre-U', which is being set up to rival the A-level, will include time travel and philosophy to stimulate interest in the subject.

Prof Gregson says the Queen's scholarships would build on previous initiatives that aimed to make science more appealing.

Already Queen's academics are working with schools to introduce P7 pupils to chemistry.

The first to benefit from the new scholarships will be those starting undergraduate degree courses in September 2008.

Those studying courses in biomedical and biological sciences, chemistry and chemical engineering, electrical engineering, maths and physics will benefit.

"The challenge of Stem subjects is occurring across the globe. Because of the very extensive efforts at Queen's to raise awareness of the opportunities in these subjects, Queen's is in some

ways bucking the trend," Prof Gregson says.

"It will be a very simple scheme whereby [money] has been set aside and the key element will be the automatic award of a £1,000 scholarship to any student entering Queen's with a minimum of three As at A-level and going to do a Stem subject.

"It was a fairly obvious thing we thought to do."

Students achieving three As and winning places at highly competitive courses including dentistry and medicine will not be offered the scholarships.

Instead from next year they will have to sit aptitude tests on top of scoring straight As.

Prof Gregson says A-levels alone could not test all the important qualities required of doctors and surgeons, including bedside manner and patient care.

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