Education News

Bad Times Just Around The Corner

Imperial College Union … for Plant Sciences at Imperial College London, according to a post on the Imperial College Union website:

Out of the two affected sections (Plant & Microbial Sciences and Cell Biology & Functional Genomics) a total of 17 academics are being evicted, leaving only 12 remaining. These 17 academics are being told to leave by July 2011. Many have PhD students who will not finish their PhDs before that point; what will happen to these students is unknown, and will depend on whether they can switch research group, where their funding is tied to and whether the academic managed to find a position at another institution. This is unlikely in the current economic environment and would still mean the PhD student would have to move with them. Many PhD students therefore face the fact that they may not be able to continue their PhD.
There are also 22 Masters Students on the Plant Sciences MRes course who will be undertaking their research projects between April and October 2011. They will therefore be unable to take up research projects with the 17 academics leaving in July and the burden will pass onto the 12 remaining to supervise them.
What will happen to Undergraduate modules is clearer – they cannot continue in their current form. Out of the course convenors for final year plant and microbial courses, nearly zero remain. In one module (Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions), 4 out of 5 teaching staff are being forced to leave, which no doubt means that this is the last year of this module. This comes after several years in which the final year plant and microbial modules have attracted more and more students. The current numbers are at record level.
First and Second year Biology and Biochemistry are also affected, since the 17 academic staff going do a lot of teaching, especially in the core second year modules of Applied Molecular Biology and Animal and Plant Physiology.
The very running of the Undergraduate Biology and Biochemistry degrees is at risk, since both Undergraduate Directors of Studies, both Senior Tutors and both Admissions Tutors are being forced out.

Another one bites the dust …

  • Also reported in Times Higher Education in October – “Imperial College London is to scrap its plant sciences provision.”
    But it is worse than these reports might suggest: Imperial College took over the very important Wye College, Kent (, a major research centre for agroecological studies, in 2000 and closed it down last year, You can get some idea of the range of quality research there in plant molecular biology, plant nutrition, reproductive development and dioecy etc. by looking at the 69 papers in Annals of Botany from Wye College –

    The situation for horticultural research in the UK is not good. When one might expect this area to have every support for environmental, health, food security, rural added-value and other reasons, the University of Warwick is also planning to close the Horticultural Research Institute site (formerly, and better known internationally, as Horticultural Research International HRI or National Vegetable Research Station NVRS Wellesbourne) according to the website report – – which also suggests that 27 of 80 principal investigators in biological sciences will be ‘lost’, representing experts in many of the fields in the important Royal Society Report ‘Reaping the Benefits: Science and the sustainable intesification of global agriculture’ – . Although nine months old, the blog and comments at Farmers’ Guardian are also worth reading to see the importance of HRI and the effect closure will have: and from 19 November .

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