Some of the discussion stimulated by the proposed closure of the physics department at Reading University gives the impression that increased student recruitment would avert such problems in the future. This is incorrect.
Since the marginal cost of teaching a science student exceeds the total per capita of the funds to the university from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and fees, the more students enrolled, the faster the department heads for bankruptcy.
Hefce was warned when it reduced the ratio in the funding formula for science subjects a few years ago that this would be the result.
Only Hefce can save physics from extinction as an undergraduate subject in England and Wales. So far it has not shown any inclination to do so.
Alan D. B. Malcolm.
Chief executive Institute of Biology.