The falling number of traditional science graduates has been masked by a growth in topics such as sports science, says the Royal Society, who also suggested increases in the number of maths and biology degrees were "apparent rather than real".
The Royal Society made the claims after asking government agency the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) to re-analyse its own figures using different methods. The re-analysis was commissioned as part of a Royal Society report examining the future supply and demand for science, technology and maths graduates. The new figures suggest that the popularity of subjects such a sports science, forensic science and psychology is masking a drop in those taking first degrees in biology. While there had been an increase in graduates taking subjects categorised by Hesa as the "biological sciences", in 2004/5 biology students accounted for just 17% of this group - down from 31% in 1994/5.