The impact of an intervention to promote participation in STEM

The impact of an intervention to promote participation in STEM

A new Frontier study, published today, finds that work placements offered to Year 12 students are effective in increasing access to university courses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

It is widely recognised that there is a shortage of skills in STEM subjects in the UK: a recent survey showed that over a third of employers report difficulties recruiting STEM skilled staff. In addition, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly underrepresented in STEM. To help address these problems the Nuffield Foundation provides post-16 students the opportunity to undertake STEM research placements through the Nuffield Research Placements (NRPs) programme. The programme aims to deepen students’ understanding of STEM subjects and research and to encourage them to pursue further studies and careers in STEM by arranging a four to six week STEM research placement for students between Years 12 and 13.

In 2016, the Nuffield Foundation commissioned Frontier Economics and CFE Research to evaluate the impact of Nuffield Research Placements on the education and career outcomes of students. 

Our report presents initial findings from the evaluation:

  • The placements have a positive impact on participants’ access to STEM Higher Education (HE) courses. Nearly a third (32%) of NRP participants enrolled in a STEM HE course in a Russell Group institution, compared to 25% of comparable pupils with similar demographic background and academic attainment.

  • NRP participants reported that the placement enhanced their study motivation, overall confidence in abilities and specific skills in presenting, writing and time management. These skills are beneficial both for employment within STEM and for their transferability to employment in other areas. 

  • The programme is successfully targeting students from more disadvantaged backgrounds: 22% of pupils offered an NRP between 2014 and 2016 had been eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) in the six years prior to the offer.

Frontier regularly works with public and private sector clients on issues related to education, skills and labour markets. For more information, please contact or call +44 (0) 20 7031 7000.

For full details of our analysis, download the report below.

The Nuffield Foundation is an independent charitable trust with a mission to advance social well-being. It funds research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare, and Justice. It also funds student programmes that provide opportunities for young people to develop skills in quantitative and qualitative methods. The Nuffield Foundation is the founder and co-funder of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit

NRP Evaluation Interim report June 2019