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HEFCE and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) commissioned CFE Consulting to undertake a summative evaluation of the National higher education (HE) science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programme. The programme was a £21 million initiative funded by both funding bodies to:

  • engage collaboratively to increase and widen participation
  • promote, support and champion the STEM disciplines
  • respond to the skills needs of employers and employees.

  The evaluation was commissioned to establish:

  • the overall effectiveness of the programme
  • the ways in which the programme has impacted on policy, process and activity within higher education institutions and the broader STEM community
  • the sustainability of the programme outcomes
  • the effectiveness of the governance and management of the programme at local and national levels, including the oversight of the funders.

The evaluation involved interviews with stakeholders, programme partners and project leads, an online survey and desk research on programme documentation. The focus of the evaluation was on the overall effectiveness of the programme and its higher-level outcomes, rather than its constituent projects or activities.

The evaluation found that there had been a high level of engagement with the programme covering the majority of higher education institutions with relevant STEM provision in England and Wales. It also found that it had impacted on university activity and practice and influenced the national debates on HE STEM and related policy.

Overall, the conclusion of this evaluation is that the National HE STEM Programme was an effective and valuable contribution to the challenges facing the supply and diversity of STEM graduates in England and Wales.