New integrated science degree
Following successful pilot trials, the Institute of Physics (IOP), UK, will launch its Integrated Science degree in four universities from September 2008.
The interdisciplinary degree aims to appeal to students who are interested in a broad spectrum of sciences. It will offer the opportunity to learn several different disciplines, including physics, chemistry, engineering and biology. Each degree has been tailored according to the expertise of its host institutions – the Universities of Surrey, Leicester, East Anglia and the London South Bank University.
‘The purpose [of the degree] was to encourage more people to study a physics-based degree course at university,’ explains Professor Peter Main, Director of Education and Science at the IOP. ‘This can be achieved by appealing to students who do not want to specialise but would like a broadly-based science course.’
Graduates of the degree could then complete a four-year master’s degree specialising in a specific science. The IOP has worked with the participating universities to develop their core physics curriculum.
The University of Surrey’s BSc degree will cover the physical and life sciences, including atoms molecules and quanta, medical imaging and soft solids. The University of Leicester focuses on chemistry, biology and the earth sciences. London South Bank University’s degree will look at medical applications, communications, modern materials, energy and sustainability. Meanwhile, the University of East Anglia will cover spectroscopy, polymer and materials chemistry and astrophysics.
‘More than one commentator has stressed the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to science research in the 21st century, so there is a strong argument for degrees of this type,’ adds Main.
Professor Chris Grovenor, Head of the Materials Department at Oxford University, UK, says the new degree sounds similar to other integrated degrees offered in the UK, such as materials science, which can be interdisciplinary. However, he expressed concerns about the degree’s aim to appeal to students who would not normally go into science.
‘Attracting people just to increase enrolment numbers is not very rational. Nobody wins,’ says Grovenor. ‘You want to make sure you’re keeping the best students in your subject.’