HEFCE funding award gives boost to physical sciences
23 March 2006
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) today announced more than £5m backing for two major initiatives by the learned societies responsible for promoting physics and chemistry. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) was awarded £3.6m of HEFCE money and the Institute of Physics (IOP) will receive £1.8m HEFCE support. The HEFCE funding announcement followed an agreement last year that it would work with a group of organisations to support strategically important and vulnerable subjects.
Steve Egan, Acting Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said: "We are delighted to support both these programmes. Chemistry and physics are both of fundamental importance to the development of our science base and the economic well-being of the country.
"We believe that the long term health of these subjects can best be served by ensuring that there is an increasing demand by people who are well informed about their future career prospects. We are pleased to work with partners - including the learned societies, universities, schools, colleges and employers to stimulate interest and excitement in studying these subjects and to bring them to the attention of pupils from a wide range of backgrounds."
The Chemistry For Our Future programme aims to ensure a strong and sustainable chemical science community within higher education and to provide a sound basis for continuing the success of industries that rely on chemistry.
The IOPs' Stimulating Demand for Physics will be funded in partnership with several universities and a wide range of other organisations. The programme has two principal strands, Access and Demand, which aims to increase the numbers of students studying physics-based courses in higher education institutions. This will include developing exciting new physics-based courses to appeal to students and repackaging of existing physics degrees. If the pilot studies are successful, the aim will be to roll out the ideas across the country over the next five to ten years.
Chief executive of the RSC, Richard Pike, said: "In the early stage the RSC will roll out into other regions of England its existing Chemistry: The Next Generation programme, and will also work to enhance understanding between schools and universities, smoothing the transition to HE while informing curriculum development, which is a major aspect of the programme.
"Other strands of the RSC scheme will look at smarter use of existing laboratory facilities. The plan will also embrace careers advice for students, teachers and careers advisers and the sharing of good practice across the HE sector."
Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of the IoP, said: "The Institute is very pleased that our project will be going into action. The Access Strand of our programme looks at three areas. The first involves the creation of a new type of physics-based integrated science programme to appeal to students who want a broad science degree with the possibility of specialisation later.
"The second area is the repackaging of existing physics degrees to appeal more to the needs of students in the twenty-first century. Finally, we intend to improve the link between schools and universities by instigating a teacher fellowship scheme that enables teachers to spend time teaching in university departments and developing personal links with academics."
The Demand Strand addresses two important issues in schools: the shortage of specialist physics teachers and the lack of realistic career goals among young people. Clusters of schools will be selected, and dedicated support will be provided to the non-specialist teachers of physics. In addition, a whole range of careers focused activities will be targeted at school students, including e-mentoring and 'physics in action' visits.
The financial administration of the two projects will be undertaken through the University of Leicester, working in partnership with the RSC and the IOP.
Details of project areas and outcomes.
Institute of Physics
An international professional body and learned society, established to promote the advancement and dissemination of physics
Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)
Distributes public funding for Higher Education to universities and colleges in England. It is bringing together a series of activities to support certain subjects which are regarded as strategically important to the economy and society, but which may be vulnerable because of a mismatch between supply and demand. The HEFCE Board has advised the Secretary of State for Education and Skills that intervention should be effective, targeted and proportionate
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