Researching Futures in Engineering

This project aims to inform policy and practice so that changes can be made to current approaches to the recruitment and retention of engineering students and practising engineers. This will be achieved by reflecting on evidence from our previous and ongoing studies with various groups including industry, academia, schools and interested networks and individuals. All materials produced will be available via this website.

Download our flyer (2018-04-10)

Background to the project

Currently, only 9% of practising professional engineers in the UK are women (Women’s Engineering Society, 2016) as compared with 21% across all STEM (Women in Science and Engineering, 2016). This is the lowest percentage of women engineers of the 28 European countries, over half of which have at least 20% (Perkins, 2013). Clearly there are social justice implications due to female under-representation in engineering in the UK specifically (Rhys Jones, 2011) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology Women's Network has initiated a campaign to improve the situation “#9PercentIsNotEnough” (2017). When considering ethnic minority women employed as professional engineers, the percentages fall still further since the data show that men and women together only represent 6% of this workforce (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2015). The issue is one of culture and therefore there is a need for cultural change/transformation that will open up both recruitment and subsequent employment in engineering industries and STEM more generally.

Therefore this project proposes to engage with the engineering industry via a dedicated event with representatives from a number of engineering firms to enable the sharing of knowledge and re-examination of existing research findings largely drawing on our previous work:

  1. Decision-Making for Degree-Taking: Who or what influences students to study for a degree in engineering at a Russell Group university?
  2. Futures in Engineering: Engineering-Related Aspirations and Anxieties
  3. Teleprism: “Mathematics teaching and learning in secondary schools: the impact of pedagogical practices on important learning outcomes” (
  4. TransMaths: “Mathematics learning, identity and educational practice: the transition into Higher Education” (
  5. TLRP: ‘Keeping open the door to mathematically demanding programmes in Further and Higher Education’. (
  6. Maths Anxiety Review: A systematic review and meta-analysis of existing research related to maths anxiety, including a case study of engineering. (
  7. Learning Gain: This ongoing project is piloting alternative measures of students’ learning gain at university, and includes students’ attitudes, dispositions, their transitional experience from school to university, reasons of choosing particular subjects and their expectations of their university and studies. (

The aim is thus to revisit ‘what works’ so that best practice can be identified, evidenced and embedded across the sector. These research findings will also be shared with academics and practitioners at a separate engineering education forum. Both these events will provide input on the potential future direction of this research. Further dissemination opportunities will also be organized to engage with school pupils, women’s networks and the general public.


Institution of Engineering and Technology Women's Network (2017). #9PercentIsNotEnough. The Institution of Engineering and Technology Women's Network.

Perkins, J. (2013). Professor John Perkins’ Review of Engineering Skills. London: Business, Innovation and Skills. Royal Academy of Engineering (2015). Time to tackle ethnic diversity in engineering, says Academy.,-sa

Rhys Jones, S. (2011). Business culture and HR. In M. Mumm (Ed.) Unlocking potential – perspectives on women in science, engineering and technology. 12-24. London: The Smith Institute.

WES (2016). Women in Engineering Statistics. Stevenage: Women’s Engineering Society.

WISE (2016). Women in the STEM Workforce.

Lead Project Investigators

Maria Pampaka

Diane Harris

Advisory Group

From within the University of Manchester, the following colleagues were members of our advisory group for our ESRC IAA funded work:

  • Prof Megan Jobson: Reader, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science
  • Prof Joseph Mutale: Professor of Sustainable Energy and Electric Power Systems, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Dr Konstantinos Kopsidas: Senior Lecturer, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Dr Ben Parslew: Senior Lecturer, Aerospace Engineering, School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering
  • Dr Han-Mei Chen: Researcher, Civil Engineering Division, School of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering
  • Prof Julian Williams: Professor of Mathematics Education, School of Environment, Education and Development
  • Dr Laura Black: Senior Lecturer, Manchester Institute of Education, School of Environment, Education and Development
  • Events

    Embracing Change in Engineering: do equality, diversity & inclusion matter?

    Monday 3 December 2018

    We hosted a full day of presentations and discussions on Monday 3 December in the Sackville Street Building at the University of Manchester.

    This successful event was a forum for discussion and reflection between academics, researchers, professionals (and policy makers) around the following current challenges:

    1) The UK doesn’t have enough engineers to meet the demands of industry.

    2) The UK lags behind its European neighbours in the number of women engineers in particular (at just 9%) but engineers from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities are even less well represented.

    This event provided the opportunity to consider 'what works' but it was also about what might or might not reproduce structural inequalities, discrimination and problematic ways of working. Motivated by presentations from experts in the field of education, engineering and professionals with varied expertise in the field, we shared creative ideas to improve the situation with an ultimate aim to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

    This event was open to everyone with an interest in engineering education and/or equality, diversity and inclusion. The event was funded by the ESRC, Jaguar Land Rover, the Women’s Engineering Society, IBM UK Ltd. and AEON Engineering Ltd.

    Workshop for Jaguar Land Rover at the British Motor Museum

    Thursday 28 June 2018

    Women in Technology InterConnect

    Wednesday 25 April 2018

    The theme for this event was ‘Press for Progress’, borrowing from this year’s International Women’s Day theme. It explored progress being made in technology, in careers, and in diversity in our industries. Topics included an insight into technologies that are transforming business, microinequities and career hurdles.

    Event Presentation - "Engineering - The Barriers"

    Conference at The British Academy, London

    ‘Contemporary Research in Mathematics Anxiety and Emotions: Advancing the Field’

    Friday 9 March 2018

    This event was part of the ‘Special Project Unsettling Understandings of Maths Anxiety’ and the day provided a critical insight into research on mathematics anxiety, including closely related concepts such as identity, emotions and dispositions.

    The programme included a mix of speakers from the project team, guest speakers, and knowledge sharing opportunities around these topics, including:

    Markku Hannula – University of Helsinki – Professor of Mathematics Education who will discuss “Mathematics anxiety and its relation to other affective concepts”

    Ann Dowker – University of Oxford – Research Lecturer, Department of Experimental Psychology

    Kinga Morsanyi – Queen’s University Belfast – Lecturer School of Psychology who will discuss “Maths anxiety outside academic contexts”

    Project team members including Julian Williams, Maria Pampaka, David Swanson, Diane Harris and others from The University of Manchester presented findings focusing on the role of teachers and pedagogy, implications for STEM education, implications for engineering, international perspectives, and the role of theory of emotions (

    Event Presentation - "Maths Anxiety and Engineering"

    Investing in Success Award 2018

    Co-Developing Culture Change via Exploring and Sharing Research Evidence of Current Practice

    This is a newly funded project.


    Please see our recent post on the Manchester Policy Blogs website:

    "Why engineering in the UK must embrace change"

    And here is a short list of our publications:

  • Harris, D., Black, L., Hernandez-Martinez, P., Pepin, B., Williams, J. (2015). Mathematics and its value for engineering students: what are the implications for teaching?, International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 46(3), 321-336. DOI: 10.1080/0020739X.2014.979893
  • Pampaka, M., Williams, J., Hutcheson, G., Black, L., Davis, P., Hernandez-Martinez, P., & Wake, G. (2013). Measuring Alternative Learning Outcomes: Dispositions to study in Higher Education. Journal of Applied Measurement, 14(2), 197-218.
  • Pampaka, M., Williams, J., Hutcheson, G., Wake, G., Black, L., Davis, P., & Hernandez-Martinez, P. (2012). The association between mathematics pedagogy and learners' dispositions for university study. British Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 473-496. DOI: 10.1080/01411926.2011.555518
  • Partners

    Women's Engineering Society
    IBM AEON Engineering Ltd.