Quantitative Skills (QS) are invaluable in the public sector and politics. They provide robustness to political debates and policy decisions. Find out more from a member of the House of Lords, the National Statistician and Director of Operations at the British Library.
Lord David Lipsey
Member of the House of Lords, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Statistics, Trustee of Full Fact
“Without numbers, most opinion is just that and much political debate vacuous.”
Tell us about your early encounters with QS.
I didn’t study maths beyond A level and failed to manage the statistics course in my PPE degree. I have tried to make up for that since.
When did you first start learning about how to use QS in your work?
I learnt the value of numbers in my first job as a researcher at the General and Municipal Workers Union. I then worked for Rt Hon Anthony Crosland MP, later environment and foreign secretary, who was an advocate of evidence-based policy before it became fashionable.
How do you use QS in your work now?
I now chair the All Party Group on Statistics at Westminster as well as serving on the board of the factchecking organisation, Full Fact which promotes accuracy in public debate.
“It’s the future!”
Tell us about your studies.
At school I wanted to do English and Maths; Physics and French; Politics and P.E., but this was considered unusual and difficult to accommodate! I was fortunate to discover Sociology which I studied at university and where I learned about QS.
What do you think QS give you that other skills don’t?
The QS I was taught at university, and those I have subsequently learned, have provided a unique and valuable set of tools to help policy makers and the public better understand the world in which we live. They give an insight into the performance of the economy, the circumstances of different groups in society, and help us evaluate the options we are presented with.
What advice would you give current students about learning QS?
Almost any career in future will require at least an ease with numbers. But beyond that, QS will help you participate fully in every aspect of life – from choosing a career to assessing the claims of politicians!
These case studies represent a selection from the British Academy’s Stand Out and Be Counted booklet.