Kingston University is the latest institution to close its physics department.
Last week the university announced that its school of applied physics would close completely in two year's time. Staff will be redeployed throughout the university and existing students will be allowed to complete their courses. There will be no intake of physics students this autumn.
Kingston is one of about eight institutions that have been forced to close their physics departments or cut provision over the past three years because of a decline in student numbers. At Kingston, the number of physics students had fallen from 47 in 1993-94 to 30 this year.
It appears that the national trend is towards a concentration of first-degree physics teaching in fewer universities. This is backed by the fact that nationally, physics numbers have held up well. The number of physics undergraduates rose from 9,472 in 1994-95 to 9,645 in 1997-98. Applications to physics courses starting this year are, however, more than 10 per cent down on the same time last year.
Reg Davis, Kingston's dean of science, said: "It is not the death of physics at Kingston, because staff will be doing new things in the applications area rather than fundamental physics. It is a response in part to the national problems of recruitment. As a dean of science I find this trend sad and disappointing."
Teaching in physics will continue in other schools at Kingston, although first degrees in physics will cease. From this autumn, students on courses that require physics, for instance health care sciences, will be taught by the school's redeployed staff.
A significant amount of physics teaching will be required for Kingston's new cross-faculty of instrumentation, which is being created to develop new courses and research in advanced technology equipment.