Physics maintains magnetism

April 4, 1997

Physics lecturers are not all greying over-50s with retirement just around the corner, a new survey reveals. On the contrary, departments are recruiting young blood at a higher rate than at any time since the 1960s, says Ken Pounds, chief executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council.

Professor Pounds has carried out an analysis of university physics department staff following a report highlighting Insitute of Physics' concerns that the age profile presented "a serious problem for the future of the subject".

The institute said in its submission to the Dearing committee that without a significant rise in recruitment, there would be a dramatic decline in the permanent physics population over the next decade. Professor Pounds wrote to each university physics department and discovered that although nearly 30 per cent of full-time physics lecturers are aged 55 or over, recruitment is sufficient to replace retiring staff.

There were 1,213 academic staff in indefinite physics posts. He calculates that 588 of these are aged 51 and over. Since 1992, 195 staff have been recruited into indefinite posts, representing a rate of 49 new staff every year, with a median age of 34. To maintain the current level an average of 39 will need to be appointed each year.

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