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Physics enrolments - More good news

Jennings, P., deLaeter, J., Zadnik, M. and Lloyd, B. (2008) Physics enrolments - More good news. Australian Physics, 45 (5). pp. 166-174.

Abstract

After nearly a decade (1994 - 2001) of declining physics enrolments in Australian Universities, which led to the closure or amalgamation of many university Physics Departments, and reported declines in the number of secondary school students studying Physics, tertiary level enrolments have risen sharply in the past seven years, which is indeed good news, not only for the physics community, but for Australia as a whole. During the period of the last enrolment survey, covering the years 2003 to 2005, third year Physics enrolments increased some 42 per cent over the preceding triennium. There were also encouraging signs of enrolment increases at the post-graduate level, but not at fourth year. This renaissance in physics enrolments was brought about, in part, by the diversification in applied physics courses such as nanotechnology. The question then being asked by physicists was: Would the good times continue? The question can now be answered in the affirmative. In the recently completed enrolment survey covering the period 2006 to 2008 (the fourteenth in the series which commenced in 1974), significant increases in enrolments are reported at all levels, as compared to the 2003 to 2005 survey. The third year numbers have stabilised over the past three years at 11 per cent above the total for 2003 - 2005, while the respective increases are 26 per cent for fourth year and 20 per cent for post-graduate enrolments. It is particularly pleasing to see the increases at the post-graduate level as this will have an impact on the research performance of Physics Departments at a time when physics research is of vital importance to Australia. The increases in post- graduate numbers, which have shown progressive improvements since 2002, are likely to continue, at least for the immediate future, due to the flow-on effect from healthy third and fourth year enrolments. It is however sobering to reflect on the fact that Australian enrolments at both the fourth year and postgraduate levels have only just returned to the numbers reached in the early nineties. New Zealand Physics departments did not suffer the same declines in the late nineties as their Australian counterparts and consequently the enrolment increases over the past six years, which we have seen in Australian Universities, have not been reflected in New Zealand. Their numbers have remained stable or increased slowly, in line with the trends observed over the past fifteen years.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Engineering and Energy
Publisher: Australian Institute of Physics
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/8447
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