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The University of Reading is no longer accepting students onto its Physics courses, and recommends that the entire department be closed no later than 2010. The university says the "current funding context" means it must direct resources into areas of academic strength.

To save the department, the University's boards say "we would need to invest in a way which is not feasible in the present climate".

The Institute of Physics says it regrets the closure, and calls on the government to overhaul the way funding it allocated to universities.

The Institute's science director, Peter Main, said that universities are operating in an environment where funding is controlled by the choices made by seventeen year-olds.

"Funding follows student numbers and so the future of Britain’s science base rests on the university choices of sixth-formers," he said.

"The government has to realise that its aspirations for science, set out in the chancellor’s “Next steps” programme following the March budget, will not happen unless they look again at how university departments are funded; the current model disadvantages laboratory-based subjects, especially physics", he concluded.

In 2005, the University said it would offer bursaries to high performing students with science A-levels, in a bid to attract more to their courses. The scheme was due to start with this season's intake, now most likely the last.

You can read Reading's full statement here. ®

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