Forty female rising stars of engineering are to be offered £1250 a month studentships to study for a masterís degree at Londonís Brunel University in a bold move to boost the numbers of women students in advanced engineering education.
The bursaries, announced by Universities Minister David Willetts cover 16 courses in sectors including aerospace, automotive, construction, oil and gas and computing.
Project leader at Brunel, engineering lecturer Petra Gratton, said: "Nationally only around a quarter of students on engineering masterís courses are women.
"Bluntly speaking that has to change if UK engineering is going to continue to compete as successfully as it currently does. Encouraging more women into the profession is vital to the countryís economic future.
"Also this Women in Engineering Programme will allow us to deeply study what is still holding back female engineers from realising their full career potential and the insights we gain will be shared throughout higher education and the engineering professional bodies.
"While some may see this as positive discrimination the stark reality is that UK plc can no longer afford not to exploit fully this enormous potential talent pool . Every British engineering company will tell you they face crippling skills shortages and without radical action that can only get worse.Ē
The studentships are also backed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and industry partners Babcock International Group and engineering consultancy TWI. As well as hard cash, graduate students will be offered mentors, opportunities to shadow senior engineers and industry experience.
Mr Willetts also announced, as a further strand of the £1.7million scheme, 20 studentships on a new and innovative Industrial Masterís Programme being pioneered by Brunel.
Again worth £1250 a month but open to both sexes, the bursaries are for the 2014 Structural Integrity MSc. The course brings together knowledge from materials science, structural analysis and non-destructive testing. Students will work with both hands-on engineers and academics focusing on addressing real problems faced by the programmeís industry partners BP, Lloyds Register and Network Rail.
It will be delivered at the new National Structural Integrity Research Centre in Cambridge alongside partner TWIís HQ with Brunel actively planning other courses using the same model.
Engineer and Unipart Manufacturing Group Managing Director, Carol Burke, welcomed the new programme: "As an employer I welcome this because of the clear focus on bringing together academia and the real world of work,Ē she said.