Ethnic diversity (pilot)

The Institute of Physics is keen to increase the diversity of students studying physics. In recent years, it has worked hard to understand the relative lack of participation of girls and students from ethnic minority groups.

Together with the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute has published two reports on the participation of students from ethnic minority groups across the entire education spectrum. One interesting observation from the statistical report is that students from certain Asian backgrounds are very well represented in higher education in general but are significantly under-represented in physics, despite being eminently capable of taking the subject at A-level and beyond. 

There are indications that reasons for this situation include ignorance of what physics is and what career choices are available from it. The influence of family is also a strong factor in many cases.

In November 2009, the Institute formed a partnership with a school that offers A-level physics and has a high proportion of students from minority ethnic groups.  We hope that through this pilot project we gain a better understanding of how to encourage more students to take A-level physics and to continue studying physics courses at university.

The project will approach this in two ways: 

  • Teaching
    We will link with the Stimulating Physics Network to look at ways we can enhance the teaching of physics.
  • Enrichment
    We will deliver a programme of enrichment activities, with a strong emphasis on the wide-ranging career options open to physics graduates.  Alongside activities for students, there will be events to which parents are invited. We will address the misconceptions that a physics degree can only lead to a narrow choice of careers and that, in fact, the skills developed through physics are highly regarded and applicable across diverse fields of work.

The updates and results from the project will be published here in due course. We will use these to inform our future work and look to develop a model of good practice to be applied nationally.