UK students pursuing physics degrees minimally deterred by increasing fees, report reveals

Oct 12, 2012
University physics fares well with higher fees

Research assessing the impact of £9,000 per year tuition fees on future university physics students has found them largely undeterred by fear of debt and determined to pursue a subject they love.

A new , "Gravitating towards physics: How will higher fees affect the choices of prospective physics students?", uses secondary data, focus groups and a survey, involving more than 500 applicants, to understand better the potential implications of the new funding model.

Professor Paul Hardaker, at the Institute of Physics, said, "It was crucial to undertake this research because it is of national strategic importance that universities are able to continue producing a steady stream of physics graduates.

"While the report does throw up some concerns – particularly in relation to diversity – we're delighted to find physics in rude health."

The report, produced by YouthSight, states that physics "attracts passionate, curious and intelligent young people from an early age, and enjoys a very positive reputation.  These young people perceive the subject to be prestigious, important and fundamental, and studying it is viewed as a mark of intelligence."

The report finds that physics students are significantly more likely than the average student to say that cost will not have any effect on their decision about whether to go to university; 39% of the physics sample in contrast to 29% of the UK average for all subjects.

Looking at students' of the subject, the report concludes that those who choose to apply for a physics course believe they will be positively received by future employers as a physics degree proves their level of intelligence, and ability to work in a team.

Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at IOP, said, "Higher fees and a very challenging job market are leaving with very tough decisions about which courses to apply to at university. 

"Students are recognising, however, that employers regard physics positively and, partly because of this, we are seeing physics enjoy somewhat of a renaissance in universities."  

The report does raise concern about levels of diversity among students taking the subject and suggests that higher might work to compound an already difficult issue.

Raising the issue of levels of participation in the subject by women, ethnic minorities and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, the research does find that many of these non-traditional groups say that they are more worried about new fee levels and incurring debt.  

Mia Lorenz, Associate Director at YouthSight, said, "This study corroborates other research we've conducted at YouthSight recently showing that higher tuition fees are likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on diversity in higher education."

Professor Peter Main, director of education and science at IOP, said, "The challenge is demonstrating to pre-A level school students, of both genders and from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible, that physics 'is for them'.

"Among these groups, we need to see a greater number of them choosing to take A-level physics because, if they can see the benefits of a strong background in , then we're sure this enthusiasm will stay with them all the way to university."

Read the full report – "Gravitating towards physics: How will higher fees affect the choices of prospective physics students?"

Explore further: Physicists create tool to foresee language destruction impact and thus prevent it

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Girls are being left behind

Oct 03, 2012

Nearly half (49%) of all co-ed maintained schools in England do not send even one girl on to do physics A-level, a new report from the Institute of Physics (IOP) reveals today.

Shortage of physics teachers in the UK worse than ever

Nov 21, 2005

An independent report published today directly links the steep decline in the number of students taking A-level physics to the shortage of expert physics teachers. With over 30% of physics teachers due to retire in the next ...

World Year of Physics 2005 Begins with Paris Conference

Jan 10, 2005

The World Year of Physics 2005 (physics2005.org) will officially launch at the Physics for Tomorrow conference in Paris, January 13-15. Four American students have received scholarships from U.S. physics organizations to ...

High school physics enrollment hits record high

Jan 10, 2007

"More U.S. high-school students are taking physics than ever before, and the number of physics bachelor's degree recipients in the nation has increased 31 percent since 2000, according to new data presented today by the American ...

Recommended for you

Affirmative action elicits bias in pro-equality Caucasians

8 hours ago

New research from Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business indicates that bias towards the effects of affirmative action exists in not only people opposed to it, but also in those who strongly endorse equality.

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

Jul 24, 2014

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

Jul 23, 2014

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

User comments : 0