Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 27

Memorandum from the Institute of Physics

  The Institute of Physics is a leading international professional body and learned society, with over 37,000 members, which promotes the advancement and dissemination of a knowledge of and education in the science of physics, pure and applied.

  The Institute welcomes the Committee's Inquiry, as we are extremely concerned about the future viability of a number of university physics departments in England. Recent high profile announcements about the Universities of Newcastle and Keele discontinuing their core undergraduate physics degree programmes have done little to allay fears of the Institute and its community.

  As the Committee may well be aware, since the turn of the new Millennium the Institute has been active in highlighting the emergence of `physics deserts', regions in the country where there is no university provision for undergraduate physics. It was reported in the Institute's report of 2001, the Undergraduate Physics Inquiry, that since the removal of the binary divide, the economics of university physics departments has led to over 30% of them having either merged or closed. The current figure, following the merger of Manchester, and not accounting for Newcastle and Keele, is 48 in the UK, of which 36 are in England. If this pattern continues, we could be left in a position where many potential physics students are unable to study physics at their local institutions.

  We are in the process of talking to HEFCE with regards to the demand side problem of getting more students interested in physics at A-level and undergraduate degrees. But this is a long-term solution, by which time the "desert" could be encroaching into further regions of the country.

  The attached annex details the key issues of concern to the Institute, in response to the main points issued in the call for evidence.

January 2005



 
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