Student anger as Reading drops physics

October 6, 2006

Angry students at Reading University criticised senior management this week for abandoning a commitment to keep physics open, writes Anna Fazackerley.

The university announced last week that it was no longer feasible to retain a physics department. It will not recruit any new students after this year's intake to allow the department to close no later than July 2010.

The university issued a statement that expressed regret about the decision and stressed that it was the result of a lengthy review process.

It said: "In the current funding context, Reading, like many institutions, has to direct its limited resources to academic areas of comparative strength."

But this week, Reading Student Union claimed an earlier internal review, presented to senate six months ago, concluded that the physics department was viable.

The union issued a statement saying: "University senior management have gone against the recommendations of a previous exhaustive review that reported that there should be a continuation of the physics department, that additional funding for staff would be committed and that a strong, viable physics presence was key to fulfilling the university's corporate plan."

Dave Lewis, union president, said: "Is this announcement in the best interests of students? No. Were we consulted? No. Is there any consistency in decision-making? No. Has the university made a mistake? Definitely."

Ryan Bird, the union's vice-president for education, said: "This announcement comes hours before the university's biggest open day of the year, and while we want to tell students that Reading is where their future lies it was sociology last year, mechanical engineering before that and music the year before. We can't promise students today their department will be open tomorrow."

The university said teaching and research in some aspects of physics would continue at Reading. A final decision on the department will be made at the University Council in November.

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