18 Jun 2013

Open University to join SEPnet

South East Physics Network

South East Physics Network

The Open University will become a member of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) on 01 August 2013. The Network and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) are investing £13.1 million pounds to sustain physics undergraduate and postgraduate teaching provision, and world class research facilities, staff and doctoral training over the next five years.

HEFCE is providing £2.75 million to maintain and expand the network, to establish a dedicated regional graduate training programme for physics postgraduate students and address physics specific issues of student participation and diversity. On top of the HEFCE contribution, each SEPnet partner will support and fund programmes of Outreach, Employability and Research.

SEPnet Phase One has been tremendously successful for the partners in SEPnet and for physics in the region. The Outreach programme, regarded as an exemplar for collaborative outreach, uses the combined knowledge and resources of each partner to provide greater impact and reach and demonstrates that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It has succeeded in effectively exploiting the growing national interest in physics through its wide range of public engagement and schools activities. There has been a substantial increase in applications and intake for physics undergraduate courses and undergraduate numbers are now 90% higher in the SEPnet physics departments compared with 2007 and applications up approximately 115% - well above national trends.

Announcing the investment, SEPnet’s Independent Chair Professor Sir William Wakeham said “This is a major success for physics both in the region and nationally. HEFCE’s contribution via SEPnet has enabled the partners in the consortium to grow and develop their physics departments for the long term. Before SEPnet, physics departments had falling student numbers and lacked research diversity. Now they are robust and sustainable and the SEPnet consortium is an exemplar of collaboration in Higher Education.”

Sir Peter Knight, President of the Institute of Physics (IOP), expressed strong support for the government's continued investments in the sciences generally and in physics specifically. “SEPnet has been an undoubted success in sustaining physics in the South East region and has strongly participated in contributing to its beneficial effects nationally. It is an exemplar of collaborative best practice in outreach, employability and research and we now look forward to collaborating in the critical areas of graduate training, public engagement and diversity."

Editor’s Notes
The South East Physics Network (SEPnet) was formed after receiving a £12.5 million grant from HEFCE in 2008 as a network encompassing Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and six Physics departments in South East England at the Universities of Kent, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, Southampton, Surrey and Sussex. The Science and Technology Facilities Council and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory provided additional funds and resources for collaborations in particle physics (the NExT institute) and astrophysics (the LOFAR experiment). The University of Portsmouth joined in 2010. The Open University and the University of Hertfordshire will join the network effective the 1st August 2013.

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