The University of East Anglia's school of physics is closing and transferring its staff and students to the University of Bath in September. This will result in Bath expanding staff and student numbers by 25 per cent and increasing research output by 50 per cent.
The transfer was made possible by assistance from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Both Bath and East Anglia received a grading of 4 in the 1996 research assessment exercise. Bath's head of physics, David Bullett, hopes that the merger will result in the department achieving a 5 next time because there is a good match of research between the two universities in solid state physics and optics.
The Higher Education Funding Council is financing the relocation of East Anglia's equipment and is providing funds to refurbish Bath's research laboratories.
"The expansion will enable us to increase our intake of undergraduates to 70 a year," said Professor Bullett. "That's important, as applications to our department are 28 per cent higher this year. This is in contrast with the national picture, where physics applications are down by 2.5 per cent.
"Part of our success is due to the sandwich option we offer, which is taken by 70 per cent of our students. It gives them a year of work with a salary during the course, and it can help them obtain job offers when they graduate."
There is a trend for science departments in universities to get larger in order to offer high-quality teaching and an international standard of excellence in research.
Bath vice-chancellor David Vandelinde hopes that the merger will encourage more applicants, with postgraduate numbers set to rise from 30 to 40.
East Anglia's vice-chancellor, Vincent Watts, said: "UEA continues to have a very strong science base. We have a long tradition of inter-disciplinarity. Even after the transfer, there will be a good many physicists working across our science schools and in the Norwich Research Park."
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