Cox, a particle physics professor at the University of Manchester who is the presenter for the BBC's "Wonders of the Universe" science program, said university budgets are insufficient to meet the needs of students wanting degrees in science and engineering, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.
"We seem to have turned a corner in this country," he said. "It was the case for years that the number of kids interested in science was going down.
"The problem is that there are so many wanting to do science now that we don't have university places for them, and you can see that as evidenced by the entry grades they need to do science, which are going up and up.
"That's not an example of rising standards -- what it's really an example of is the fact that there are too many people chasing too few university places, in an area that we recognize as being nationally important."
The newspaper said the number of young people studying physics and chemistry is up by about 20 percent in the past five years.
Cox threw down an educational gauntlet for government leaders.
"My challenge to government is, you've been saying for years you want more scientists and engineers in the economy -- what are you going to do about it?" he said.
"Although [science] looks expensive, we actually spend sod all on it. The entire science budget, depending on how you define it, is about five to five and a half billion pounds a year, on a government spend of 620 [billion pounds, or $968 billion).
"The university sector is very cheap and actually makes money. We're not talking about [investing] large amounts of money, we're just talking about a statement of intent."