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UK is experiencing a ‘worsening’ shortage of Mathematics teachers



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The UK is experiencing a shortage of mathematics teachers. According to Times Higher Education, a leading British mathematician has linked this shortage of math teachers to the high number of graduates from Russell Group universities who rarely pursue careers in the education sector.

Catherine Hobbs, the Director of the Heilbronn Institute for Mathematical Research, spoke at a summit and highlighted that the failure to train enough math teachers could be attributed to shifting patterns of undergraduate recruitment over the past decade.

  • Meanwhile, annual enrolments in maths have reduced to a few dozen at some institutions with middling tariffs (cheaper fees).
  • “Some departments are getting smaller and smaller until they are not viable and this is significant for teaching because about 25% go into maths teaching but just 8% from the upper echelons [higher tariff institutions] go into maths teaching”, she said.

The shortage of math teachers is becoming increasingly apparent due to Rishi Sunak’s plan. He mandated math education for all school students in England until they reached the age of 18.

This initiative, announced in January 2023, will necessitate the recruitment of many more math teachers.

Impact of institutional changes on Math education

Professor Hobbs pointed out that the UK was experiencing an increase in “maths deserts” due to the closure of lower tariff maths departments.

She emphasized that the removal of institutional student number controls in 2015-16 had a significant impact on many math departments.

She explained that this situation was partly influenced by government metrics aimed at promoting admissions to Russell Group universities.

  • Maths is very cheap to expand – you don’t need big pieces of equipment or new laboratories ….”
  • “That would be great if the number of maths students was growing overall, but it’s staying the same as it was placing huge pressure on smaller departments in Oxford Brookes University, which announced plans to shut its maths department in November 2023”.
  • “That might mean that a young person from the Oxford area – say from Cowley – who is very bright but doesn’t get an A* at A level, who wants to study maths but can’t get into Oxford, will be advised to do computer science at, say, Bristol, even if the employment outcomes would be as good for them as studying computer science”.

She however suggested that eliminating the Russell Group metric would be a positive move.

However, she stated that returning to student number controls was unlikely and might even worsen the situation.

What this means for Nigerians

As many graduates from prestigious universities, such as the Russell Group universities (renowned UK institutions), are not opting for careers in education, this means potential international students from Nigeria can start considering studying Maths at these Russell Group universities.

Furthermore, the shortage of Math teachers poses a high demand in the sector and increases the likelihood of getting a job in the field with the potential of a work permit.

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