Changing direction: understanding and promoting mature female entry to undergraduate engineering programmes

Morris, Carol and Organ, Sally (2018). Changing direction: understanding and promoting mature female entry to undergraduate engineering programmes. In: SEFI Annual Conference, 17-21 Sep 2018, Copenhagen.


There have been many initiatives in the UK over the past 30 years aimed at increasing the number of girls entering higher education to study engineering, although the proportion of women working in engineering professions remains low at approximately 9%. The Open University (OU) is an open access, distance-learning institution which offers full and part-time degree level study to 1200 engineering students annually. The aim of our research is to understand the motivations of mature women studying engineering qualifications at the OU. By developing an understanding of the motivations and career aspirations of these students we hope to increase the number of mature women studying and entering the engineering profession.

An initial literature review of existing strategies and interventions from UK universities encouraging mature women into engineering revealed that no substantive work exists in this area.

A detailed online survey for all actively studying OU engineering students to gather information on the similarities and differences between male and female students’ motivation for study, academic interests and career aspirations has been carried out. Initial analysis of this survey indicates that mature female students are motivated by a desire to change their careers, whereas most of the male students, already in engineering employment, are motivated by career enhancement. More detailed analysis is in progress.

Informed by the results of the survey, focus groups and interviews with OU female engineering students are planned. We aim to have several focus group discussions and up to 10 individual in-depth interviews to gain further insights.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions