No more Physics at Reading
Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5399346.stm
Reading University is to close its Physics department, with this month’s intake of thirty students being the final cohort, and the department being shut down in 2010. It’s the second university to do this after Newcastle.
The Institute of Physics observes that this is essentially a market-driven problem, with funding following student numbers, and therefore universities are only able to maintain courses and departments which prospective students are willing to choose:-
At the Institute of Physics, science director Peter Main said the great paradox was that physics graduates were very employable and well paid – but departments were at risk because of underfunding. “There is a mismatch between what UK plc and employers want, and the economic drivers of universities.”
It seems almost unnatural that such a well-established, fundamental discipline can be suffering these sorts of problems. What is it that puts seventeen-year-olds off physics? Is it seen as too hard? Boring? Lacking desirable career outcomes? What could be done to make it more attractive? I wonder if the government will eventually be driven to subsidise courses which are economically important but under-subscribed, or whether there’s anything that could be done to boost the image and desirability of such subjects to prospective students.