Review finds quantitative skills training boosts social sciences employment prospects and earnings

  • Date

    Mon 23 May 22

Undergraduates who take Q-Step quantitative skills modules during their social science degrees are shown to have better earning potential than students on similar courses, according to a new report.

The Q-Step programme was established in 2013 as a strategic response to the shortage of graduates with quantitative data analytic skills within data-led professions.

A new independent evaluation of Q-Step, developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council, has found that Q-Step has achieved its mission to help address the shortage of graduates with the skills to apply quantitative methods in both research and professional settings. Graduates who have completed Q-Step modules alongside their social science degrees also have higher earning potential, 15 months after graduation.

Increased earning power is just one of the reasons social sciences students choose to follow this pathway. The review finds that they also valued the opportunity to grapple with complex real-life data sets, significantly developing their understanding of data and how it can be used to gain an understanding of societal changes and trends.

Nick Allum, Q-Step Director at the University of Essex, said: “This is heartening news and confirms what we have seen for ourselves since our Q-Step pathways began. The programme delivers a real boost to our students’ career prospects as well as enriching their intellectual journey at Essex. I’m also delighted that we are able now to expand our Q-Step offer to an even broader range of students than before, in both the social sciences and humanities.”

Nancy Kula, Executive Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, said: “The data analysis skills that students gain on Q-Step are really invaluable for future graduate employment prospects, but also for overall degree outcomes as Essex graduates have shown. The internships that are a key part of the programme really make the offer distinctive and allow students to experience and be part of solving real world challenges.”

Ma Thetsri graduated from Essex Business School with a BSc in Accounting and Finance in 2020. She now works as a trainee Finance Business Partner. When asked about her experience of Q-Step, she said: “I chose the relevant modules that were part of my degree course. I learnt how to interpret datasets and explain the outcome of the events that could have caused the data to be inconsistent, and the methods I could use in the future. The work placements helped me gain experience in potential career fields.”

The evaluation also found that the Q-Step programme has increased the teaching capacity of quantitative data at participating universities as well as boosting further investment and initiatives for quantitative data teaching overall within these institutions.

Q-Step at the University of Essex was originally funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), however since 2020, is now fully funded through the University of Essex.

The Q-Step pathways are open to undergraduate students within their 2nd and final year of study, and are offered within the Department of Government, Essex Business School, Department of History, Department of Language and Linguistics and the Department of Sociology.

To read the full evaluation follow this link.