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South East MEP Sharon Bowles calls for Reading University's Physics Department to be saved

December 18, 2009 12:30 PM

Lib Dem MEP Sharon Bowles has called for there to be significant changes to the higher education funding system ahead of the closure of Reading University's Physics Department.

Sharon Bowles said: "Funding for the sciences is an important issue. It is clear that we need more scientists and engineers to solve global problems such as climate change and for rebuilding the UK economy so what is the point of the Government encouraging schools to do more maths and science then there not being enough university places?"

The decision to close Reading University's Physics Department was made in 2006 and has led some to comment that there is a funding crisis relating specifically to the teaching of sciences at universities.

Professor Averil Macdonald, who teaches Physics at Reading University, said: "It is expensive for a university to run a Physics course as this requires far more space, apparatus and support staff than a non-science course. Often, funding given to universities is focused on those courses that are less expensive to run as this is seen as more cost effective. "

Former Reading University Physics student, Celia Young, said: "With the number of first class graduates, the closure of the Physics Department was unexpected. It was hard to comprehend why the department had to close, it wasn't just a place of study - it was a second home."

Government funding for higher education is awarded via the HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England).

Sharon Bowles said: "There should be a re-structuring of the funding system. HEFCE should award money to universities only if a fair proportion of it will be used to run vital courses such as physics, maths and engineering, and not just to fund subjects that are cheaper."

"As Chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee I know that promotion of more science and engineering graduates is at the heart of plans for improving economic prospects for the UK and Europe."