National Numeracy Challenge to improve quantitative skills of university students

quantitative paperworkThe National Numeracy Challenge will be used in a new initiative to measure and improve the quantitative skills of university students studying at Q-Step Centres.

Q-Step Centres are based at 18 universities across the UK and offer social science degree programmes and modules with an emphasis on quantitative skills. The Nuffield Foundation – which co-funds Q-Step – has commissioned National Numeracy to work with Q-Step Centres to develop a common platform for assessing students’ numerical abilities and enabling them to learn and improve. 

The new project will draw on National Numeracy’s Challenge website to identify students who will benefit from improving their numeracy and to evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches to achieving this. 

National Numeracy will develop the project with Q-Step Centres at the University of Bristol and Manchester Metropolitan University, before extending the pilot to other Q-Step Centres in the autumn. At the end of the pilot, there will be an opportunity to consider the effectiveness of the initiative and its potential for further development.

Q-Step is designed to promote a step-change in quantitative social science training in the UK. It was developed by the Nuffield Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England as a strategic response to the shortage of quantitatively skilled social science graduates.

Recent OECD analysis suggests that ‘around one in five young English university graduates can… understand a petrol gauge, but struggle to undertake more challenging… numeracy tasks.’ (Building Skills for All, 2016). The 2011 Skills for Life survey also showed that 78% of adults in England have functional numeracy skills below the equivalent of a ‘C’ at GCSE. Less than a quarter of 16 to 24 year-olds who did achieve A*-C at GCSE Maths exhibit an equivalent level of functional numeracy.

Simon Gallacher, Head of Student Programmes at the Nuffield Foundation says: “Developing the quantitative skills of undergraduate social science students is a central goal of Q-Step, and each of the 18 universities involved approaches this in their own way. This project will enable us to offer all Q-Step Centres a common tool for students and lecturers to help them benchmark abilities and assess progress. We are delighted to be working with National Numeracy on this pilot.”

Paul Milner, Development Manager at National Numeracy explains: “This is a really exciting opportunity to use the Challenge to benefit social science students who perhaps under-estimate the importance of numeracy skills in their courses. The Challenge is aimed at all adults and it’s great to have the chance to find out how it can benefit students, alongside our ongoing work with employers and other partners.”