Monday, October 09, 2006

Reading closure will waste public money

Reading closure will waste public money
Institute of Physics
09 October 2006
Over five million pounds of public money wasted if Reading University’s physics department closes
"Reading University is making a precipitous and ill-judged action in proposing to close its physics department” Professor Peter Main, director of science at the Institute of Physics, said today before a meeting with the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Gordon Marshall. “Academics in the department have been successful in attracting over £5 million in investment in the last few years – money that will be wasted if the department is forced to close.”
The university’s physics department has a £1million grant to deliver a state-of-the-art laser laboratory. A further £1 million of external funds is earmarked to build upon Reading physics department’s teaching strengths. It is a key partner in a three-university consortium to provide the UK’s only centre of excellence for physics teaching and learning; closure would mean the loss of key expertise.
“In March this year, the government published its plans for the UK science base in a document entitled, “Next steps”, in which it planned to build on innovative science research and to preserve and enhance essential subjects such as physics”, Peter Main went on, “How can we have meaningful long-term strategy when a university vice-chancellor can make a unilateral decision in this way?”
The chief executive of the Institute of Physics, Dr Bob Kirby-Harris, will meet Professor Marshall, the university’s vice-chancellor, today (9 October) to urge him to consider the regional and national strategic provision of this vital subject.
“To close Reading University’s physics department would threaten the jobs of talented researchers; threaten significant numbers of students in this important subject; and will waste millions of public investment in a department that has a crucial role to play in training the physicists of the future”, said Kirby-Harris. “We must hope that we can persuade Professor Marshall that there is a better way forward to safeguard the public investment made in his university”.

Notes to Editors
Reading University’s physics department has received the following grants and investments:-
Centre of excellence for teaching and learning (consortium with Leicester & Open University), total investment £2.4M of which £1M was based at Reading (HEFCE)
UltraFast Laser Laboratory £1M (HEFCE)
Nano science centre £200,000 (Royal Society)
Centre for Advanced Microscopy £1.5M (SRIF)
Refurbishing undergraduate laboratories £300,000 (SRIF)
Current EPSRC contracts with six new grants in physics (since Oct 2005) £1.7M

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Physics wins two RCUK Fellowships and they want to close it

Physics at Reading working with Chemistry scoops 2 of the 40 RCUK Fellowships awarded across in the UK in 2006 in the physical sciences.

The Research Councils UK Academic Fellowships scheme, launched in 2004 are "designed to reward institutions with innovative research strategies". Physics with Chemistry in open competition across the UK in the 2006 round won 2 RCUK Academic Fellowships in the field of bio-nanoscience.

The University of Reading has recently designated "Nanoscience and Materials" as one of its high-priority interdisciplinary research programmes. This involves Physics with Chemistry, Pharmacy and the Centre for Advanced Microscopy. The University says "Reading’s research strengths in a wide range of areas in centres of international excellence enables the University to develop a number of cross-discipline research themes.

The advert ( says
"We now wish to appoint two RCUK Academic Fellows within this interdisciplinary programme.The appointments will be made in the specific area of nanoscience of biomaterials and we particularly welcome applicants with strong research records in, for example, (i) the design, synthesis or activity of bio- and medically-functional nanostructured materials, (ii) computational modelling of such materials and their interactions with biological systems or (iii) the development of new techniques for nanoscale characterisation of biomaterials by scattering and diffraction techniques, potentially exploiting the nearby ISIS neutron facility and Diamond synchrotron."

Sounds like a great plan for the future - but the Senior Management Board propose closure!!??

Incidently, the advert appeared in the same week as the closure announcement!! I dont know about you but the closure plan seems like a last minute panic.

Management ignore Parliamentary Committee Recommendation

The Science and Technology Select Committee said "It recommends that it should be mandatory for universities to alert Hefce to proposed departmental closures in Stem subjects not less than 18 months before the changes in provision are due to come into effect."

In April 2006 the University saw Physics at Reading as central to its plans. This followed a year-long in depth review by the senior management. Even in September it said "it would be preferable that physics be part of the portfolio of disciplines at Reading". On 28 September it abruptly abandoned that view without consultation with the members of the Depaartment - let alone the Head of Department, riding roughshod over the Select Committee recommendations.

£5M investment made and they want to close it!

Physics at Reading

If you have been to the Physics Department at Reading recently you would have thought this was a place planning for the future. The Ground Floor area has been refurbished and equipped to produce a state of the art Ultra-fast laser Laboratory, Nanoscience Laboratories and the Centre for Advanced Microscopy (HEFCE SRIF and Royal Society funded). The first floor is a hive of activity as the final touches are made to the piCETL - Physics Innovation Centre of Excellene in Teaching and Learning (HEFCE Funded) and the teaching laboratories look resplendent in the recently refurbished state (HEFCE funded). I am told it is comes close to £5M which as been spent to help support the excellent teaching & learning, research and outreach which is the hall mark of the Department - now the Senior Management Board propose to close it!!!???

Your views

What are your views on binning a core science at Reading? Post you comments here.

Physics Closure will hit Economy

Physics at Reading

This proposed closure is bad for Reading and it is bad for the UK economy. A few years ago the Quality Assurance Assessment placed Reading as one of the top 6 Departments in the Country. Who is going to be teaching future physicists if we close one of the top department for teaching physics? Who is going to training future physics teachers and researchers?

The Royal Society, the Institute of Physics and the Government have all identified the critical role of Physics for economic survival in the UK.

In April 2006 the University of Reading identified Physics as crucial to its future plans. Now it wants to close it!

There are alternatives - lets keep it open by exploring other options.
Students’ Union Responds to University’s Plans to Dump Core Government Subject

The Students’ Union is shocked, appalled and disappointed with the University’s subversive announcement yesterday in which they plan to close the Physics Department at Reading. There was no student consultation, they have ignored previous recommendations and they do not have the best interests of students at heart.

University Senior Management have gone against the recommendations of a previous exhaustive review which reported that there should be a continuation of the Physics department, that additional funding for staff would be committed and that a strong, viable Physics presence was key to fulfilling the University’s Corporate Plan.

That Review was as good 190 days ago as it is today.

The Students’ Union opposes these plans as they will undermine the academic integrity of the education of students at Reading, they don’t reflect the University’s own corporate plan and they do not represent what is in the best interests of a future generation of University students.

Ryan Bird, Vice-President Education said

This announcement comes a matter of hours before the University’s biggest Open Day of the year, and while we want to tell students that Reading is where their future lies, it was Sociology last year, Mechanical Engineering before that and Music the year before, course closures are announced year after year after year, so we cant promise students today that their department will be open tomorrow.

Physics is absolutely key to the understanding of Science and the world around us; it touches on a range of disciplines within our University from Maths and Metrology to Computer Science and Chemistry. This announcement jeopardises the good working relationships between departments and it is to the detriment of the aspirations of thousands of young people who want the opportunity to study Physics in Higher Education.

The Students’ Union always works with the University to deliver a better student experience and to deliver on the expectations of thousands of students every year; we are committed to finding a solution which is in the best interests of current, former and future students, primarily a strong, viable and active Physics department allowing students at Reading to have a better education.

Dave Lewis was angry about the University plans

Is this announcement in the best interests of students? No. Were we consulted? No. Is there any consistency in decision making? No. Did we agree with the University six months ago that Physics was safe? Yes. Will the student voice be heard? Yes.

In a year where students are being forced to pay more money to Universities than they ever have before, I am shocked that the University wants to shut the Physics department. It consistently scores well in student satisfaction, it benefits the University community and there are an increasing number of students who want the opportunity to come here.

Our University wants to be at the very top of the education ladder in the UK, and I think this is completely right, but any University that wants to cut out physics needs its agenda closely scrutinised.

The University say cutback. I say fight back.

The University say no to Einstein. I say yes to scientific discovery at Reading.

The University say no electromagnetic scattering. We say yes to the future of Physics at Reading.

The next few weeks will see an intense campaign of activity, both building up to the National Demo on the 29th October where we will say yes to a free, fair and well funded education, and a substantive campaign against these proposals.

Although this announcement is a surprise, the student membership is ready to fight, ready to win the arguments and ready for a future of Physics at Reading.

Notes to Editors

RUSU, independent from the University of Reading, represents the interests, diversity and needs of over 17,000 students. The Union is run for students by students, offering advice, services, support and welfare. They also run bars. The Students’ Union offers a variety of entertainments, events and campaigns for a diverse and demanding student population.
For more information contact President, Dave Lewis, 07973 503 401 or VP Education, Ryan Bird 07980 697 089
The closure of Reading University physics department

29 September 2006
“The Institute of Physics deeply regrets the proposed closure of Reading University’s physics department” said Institute of Physics science director, Peter Main on learning of the impending closure of the 33-strong department. “University vice-chancellors are operating in an environment that is controlled by the choices of seventeen-year old students. Funding follows student numbers and so the future of Britain’s science base rests on the university choices of sixth-formers. In addition, laboratory-based subjects are not adequately funded. This is a clear example of market failure. The government has to realise that its aspirations for science, set out in the chancellor’s “Next steps” programme following the March budget, will not happen unless they look again at how university departments are funded; the current model disadvantages laboratory-based subjects, especially physics”.
The Institute of Physics is working with the Higher Education Funding Council on a number of projects to promote student demand for physics. However the effect of these projects will be limited unless action is taken now. Student choice is influenced by poor careers advice, a shortage of specialist teachers and a system which discourages students from taking subjects perceived as “difficult”.
Peter Main continued, “Increasing student demand is a long-term project - we are looking at a minimum of three years before today’s GCSE students start a university course. If our attempts to encourage demand are successful we may end up in a situation where students want to do physics but can’t as there will be regions of the UK where there are no physics departments. Unless the government puts in place short-term measures to sustain physics and other economically important but vulnerable subjects, we are promoting an unattainable option for many aspiring physicists”.
Robert Kirby-Harris, the Institute’s chief executive, commented, “Contrary to many reports, physics is not a declining discipline; undergraduate numbers have increased over the last few years - although not in line with the overall increase in university student numbers. Measures are in place to try to increase further student numbers and there is some evidence that they are starting to work - closing a department now would seem to be short-sighted and sends out the wrong messages”.
“Most importantly, the skills of physicists are crucial to research in disciplines as important as health sciences, environmental research and energy”, he went on, “There are universities without a physics department that have many physicists teaching and doing research. If physics departments close who will train the next generation of these vital researchers?”
Notes to Editors
For further information please contact:
Dianne Stilwell,public relations manager,Institute of Physics,tel: 020 7470 4875, or 07957 200214,e-mail:
The Institute of Physics is a scientific membership organisation devoted to increasing the understanding and application of physics. It has an extensive worldwide membership (currently over 35,000) and is a leading communicator of physics with all audiences from specialists through government to the general public. Its publishing company, Institute of Physics Publishing, is a world leader in scientific publishing and the electronic dissemination of physics.