Press Office


Resurgence in STEM prompts physics re-launch


Newcastle University is re-introducing its pure physics undergraduate degree programmes in response to rising demand from students to study science and engineering at university.

Newcastle University ceased to offer physics in its pure form in 2004 following a drop in popularity of physics in schools leading to a decline in the number of students wanting to study the subject beyond A level.

Physics research and teaching continued at Newcastle University throughout this time and has made a global contribution to the advancement of key areas such as electrical engineering and nanotechnology.

Nationally, over the past eight years the number of students taking degrees in physics has increased by 50pc and the number applying far exceeds the number of available places.

Now Newcastle University, one of the top 20 institutions in the UK and a member of the prestigious Russell Group, is re-launching its pure physics undergraduate programmes.

The physics degree, which will take in its first intake in 2015, will be led jointly by the Schools of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Maths and Statistics.

Drawing on the world-leading expertise of physicists already based at Newcastle, the close link between the new programmes and the University’s Maths and Engineering Schools will open up opportunities for employment in a range of fields and will be unique to the Newcastle degrees.

Newcastle University’s Professor Nick Wright, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation and himself a physicist, said: “Physics is the most fundamental science and crucial to understanding the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us.

“The world needs more physicists and it is wonderful to see this revived enthusiasm for the subject and for science and technology generally.

"Newcastle has a long tradition and a world-leading reputation in physics-related research.  The subject is a key part of many of our degree programmes and more than a quarter of the academic staff in Electrical Engineering and Maths are physicists.

"The decision to stop the pure degree a decade ago was not taken lightly but at the time it was felt our resources would be better deployed elsewhere in the University.

"Being able to re-launch the programmes with a clear and confident strategic plan to grow physics over the next few years is very exciting.”

Investing an initial £2 million to refurbish lab space and equip it with state-of-the-art equipment and specialist IT software to support the students through their degree, the University is also recruiting six new staff to build a core team of 15.

In addition to this there will be input from staff across a number of relevant disciplines and research Centres including Nanolab, The Joint Quantum Centre, the Chemical Nanoscience Laboratory and NEXUS – the National EPSRC XPS Centre.

Professor Steve Homans, Newcastle University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering, added: “Physics is integral to the University’s vision and the physicists of the future have a crucial role to play in some of the University’s biggest research projects, such as the £50million ‘urban laboratory’ planned for Science Central in the heart of Newcastle.

"Our plan is to have a fully-fledged School of Physics before our next significant anniversary, which is the 150th year since the founding of the College of Science in Newcastle in 1871.

"Newcastle University has a strong reputation for science and engineering and the physics programme will help to strengthen that, broadening our undergraduate intake and helping to train the leading physicists for the future.”

published on: 11 June 2014