Institute of Physics states the case for sustained investment in physics

19 April 2016

The Institute of Physics in Ireland (IOPI) has called on all political parties to ensure that sustained investment in physics at all levels is part of their proposed programme for government.

Stating its case, IOPI has highlighted the importance of physics to Northern Ireland:

• Physics-based industries in Northern Ireland provide over 27,000 jobs, particularly in high-tech manufacturing and engineering. However NI lags behind the rest of the UK, where these sectors account for over 50% of manufacturing gross value added, compared with only 25% in NI. The next executive should work with industry to review the manufacturing base and identify opportunities for growth

• To grow the NI physics base, investment is needed in all areas of physics education, from primary to university

• At primary level, science is delivered as part of a wider curriculum alongside history and geography and there is no statutory duty on teachers to teach these subjects equally. The next executive should explore ways to reintroduce a separate science subject into the primary school curriculum

• Students who study physics in school are in high demand. However, more than half of all second-level schools do not have any students taking A-Level physics. The next executive should conduct a review to identify and tackle the barriers to physics becoming a realistic option to pursue at A-Level for all students

• Universities in NI train the next generation of STEM-skilled graduates and provide crucial support for business. However NI universities receive between £1,000 and £2,500 less per student than universities in England. The next executive should commit to closing this funding gap

Dr Mark Lang, Chairperson of the Institute of Physics in Ireland, commented: “Because of the importance of physics to the economy, it is vital that politicians address some of the major challenges that are being faced by all involved in physics in Northern Ireland. Many of these issues are interlinked and require measures across a number of government departments. It is vital that politicians and policy makers have access to independent evidence to inform their decision making. For this reason, IOP is calling for the appointment of a national STEM advisor as recommended by the 2009 Review of STEM. The problems in our schools and universities need to be addressed. We risk denying a generation the opportunity of developing skills they will need to drive economic growth in Ireland.”