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Parliamentary Concern Over Funding of Physics Projects

Leicester MP highlights world-class work at Leicester

21 January 2008

Research by the University of Leicester has been cited during a parliamentary debate.

Leicester South MP Sir Peter Soulsby, who is a Leicester graduate, highlighted his concern about funding projects in Physics and Astronomy during a debate on the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Sir Peter said: "I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate on what he rightly describes as a crisis in the STFC's funding. Is he aware that the crisis affects not only the organisations and institutions in his constituency that he mentioned, but similar internationally renowned facilities elsewhere, including those carrying out physics and astronomy work at Leicester University, in my constituency? That vital work is being brought to a dramatic conclusion as a result of the council's announcement, and the prospect of redundancy and of major programmes being halted is as great in Leicester as it is in the hon. Gentleman's constituency."

Professor Martin Barstow, Head of Physics and Astronomy, said: "There is no doubt that the STFC funding crisis will have a serious impact on Physics departments across the UK if the planned cuts are not reversed.

"No department is immune and our ground-based research in Solar-Terrestrial Physics is one activity under particular threat. As one of the country's leading departments, we are working hard to find a solution to the problems at national level. However, whatever the outcome of these efforts, we will continue to engage in world-leading research and run our full programme of undergraduate degree courses. Where necessary, we will diversify our programme and seek new sources of funding for those areas currently under threat. This will be a challenge, but we are a vibrant, mutually supportive department and I am sure we will succeed. We have recently been successful in obtaining grants from non-STFC sources, including winning a 5M Euro contract from the European Space Agency.

"Physics departments make an enormous contribution to the UK economy by producing highly skilled, adaptable graduates. Indeed, the government has the goal of increasing the number of Physics students by 50% over the next few years and has put in extra support to protect Physics as a strategically important subject. However, the STFC funding crisis is completely undermining this aspect of government policy. It is hard to believe that a sensible solution will not be found."

You can read more of the House of Commons Hansard Debates for 15 Jan 2008 at http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/c m080115/halltext/80115h0011.htm

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