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University of Kent and south east to benefit from £12.5 million physics boost

The School of Physical Sciences at the University of Kent is one of six departments in the south east to benefit from £12.5 million of HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) funding.

HEFCE has approved the funding to bring together, promote and sustain physics provision in the south east, an initiative that will ensure that the institutions involved can continue to help develop and support the regional and national economy. Total additional funding over the next seven years, including resources provided by the universities and partner organisations, will be £27.8 million.

The School of Physical Sciences will also become an important part of HEFCE’s new South East Physics Network (SEPNET). This consortium involves the University of Kent, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, Southampton University, University of Surrey and University of Sussex acting together to promote physics in the region through national and international channels.

SEPNET will support four main collaborative research themes: radiation and detector instrumentation, condensed matter physics, particle physics and astrophysics. It will also have a knowledge transfer programme which will include a one-stop shop to regional employers with a special focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs); operate a graduate school; and provide an outreach programme to stimulate interest in the subject among pupils in the region’s schools.

Professor Paul Strange, Head of the School of Physical Sciences, said: ‘This is a tremendous boost for physics in Kent and the south east. It will facilitate cutting-edge research, enabling us to participate in world-leading research collaborations, particularly in astrophysics and the physics of materials. It will allow us to improve our teaching and the experience of our students and will enable us to work much more closely and productively with local and regional schools and employers.’

Professor Peter Jeffries, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Medical Studies at the University, added: ‘I welcome this recognition of Kent’s strengths in the sciences and look forward to the new collaborative activities that this new consortium will foster. The funding will increase our research and training capability in condensed matter and astrophysics and will raise the profile of physics in regional schools and industries.’

Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE, explained that the Council’s support for the physics in the south east was the latest in a series of collaborative projects designed to strengthen research, teaching and knowledge transfer in science in different parts of the country.

He said: ‘By working in collaboration [these six departments] can raise the quality of teaching and research, building on the strengths of the individual departments, and broaden the contribution of physics both through research and the development of highly skilled students.’

Gary Hughes | alfa
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