Could your students inspire the engineers of the future?


Teaching physics is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind as a career for an engineering graduate. However, it is a rewarding, valuable and important occupation and engineers make excellent teachers.

Specialist physics teachers play a vital role in the classroom to nurture, educate and guide the next generation of engineering and physics graduates.

The UK needs a two-fold increase in the number of engineering graduates if it is to meet demand for 1.28 million new STEM professionals and technicians by 2020 (EngineeringUK). This can only be achieved if we increase the pool of potential undergraduates by encouraging more – and more diverse students – to take physics A-level.

The evidence is clear that the single biggest influence on students’ choice of subjects is the quality of their teacher. Currently, there is a chronic shortfall of specialist physics teachers with a good background in school-level physics; so, to increase A-level numbers, the system needs more specialist teachers.

An engineering degree equips students with all they need to become a great specialist physics teacher. They have the subject background, they are good communicators and they can relate the content of physics courses to engineering contexts – capturing the imagination of students and exemplifying for them the experience of studying engineering.

The Institute of Physics is offering 150 scholarships to individuals with the background and enthusiasm to be exceptional teachers of physics. Each scholarship is worth £30,000 tax-free funding, as well as a package of support which includes networking events, mentoring and IOP membership during your training year. We can also offer school experience placements if they would like to inform their choice.

There is more information about teaching at Please do encourage some of your undergraduates to consider becoming a physics teacher. Doing so is an investment in the future and in the next generation of engineers.

GEDC Airbus Diversity Award 2016

Airbus diversity awards

The Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) Airbus Diversity Award is sponsored by Airbus and aims to encourage and acknowledge work that inspires students of all profiles and backgrounds to study and succeed in engineering.

The closing date for applications is 30th June 2016



You can download the application form and brief for candidates here.

For questions, please contact

HEA Engineering Enhancement Event

The Higher Education Academy is holding an Enhancement Event for academics in Higher Education in Cardiff on 2nd July.  There are a number of streams to the day including a New-to-teaching qualitative research methods & a New-to-teaching in laboratory-based subjects.

As you no doubt know, Engineering is a priority area for the Welsh Government and we feel that it would be appropriate to dedicate a full day workshop/workshops to the discipline as part of the Enhancement Event.  Our current thinking is that we have a morning session on Excellence in Engineering Teaching and then look at areas specific to the Welsh agenda in the afternoon however we are open to suggestions regarding the draft programme.  If you feel you would like to contribute to the workshops please contact Karen Fraser, Consultant in Academic Practice (Innovative Pedagogies) at to discuss your ideas.




Engineers can become talented physics teachers…and support the profession of Engineering…and can earn £20k while they train

In July 2011, the Institute of Physics was invited to the DfE for what we thought was going to be a routine consultation on physics teacher training numbers. In the event, it turned out to be a discussion around a possible scholarship scheme to attract more applicants and, crucially, academically more able applicants to teacher training. Since the Institute had been working for some time on new ways of encouraging people into teacher training, we seemed a natural organisation to run a pilot which could be, and subsequently was, rolled out to other shortage subjects.

The Institute took up the offer and was delighted to do so not only because this was a potential route to increasing numbers but also because we were keen to enhance the status of teaching as a job for high calibre graduates. To put the issue into perspective, we estimated that there was a shortage of more than 4000 physics specialists out of a full cohort of around 10,000 required. Further, there was a heavy bias towards applicants with lower degree classifications with only around 40% with 1st class or 2(i) degrees, far below the ratio for physics graduates generally.

In the initial year, the Scholarships ran in parallel with a bursary scheme; the Scholarships were worth £20k for all those selected whereas the bursaries offered £20k for 1st class students and £15k for those with 2(i). However, the Scholarships came with significant added value, including free membership of the IOP and other benefits in terms of support and resources. We had a target of 100 scholarships and, slightly to our surprise but with some satisfaction, we had more than 550 applications, so the Scholarships ended up being highly competitive, with a rigorous interview day and a test of conceptual understanding of physics separating the candidates.

The success of the scheme meant that it has been continued and we have just started our 4th year of recruitment. In addition, parallel schemes were established in mathematics, chemistry and computer science. We followed our initial success with years of 658 and 660 applicants and an increase to 150 Scholars a year, maintaining the high quality threshold.

We have managed to gather statistics on our applications. For example, we had expected proportionally far more 2(i) applicants, because the financial benefit to them was greater, but in fact, as shown in Fig 1, first class students also saw value, largely due to the IOP support and also for CV purposes.

The age distribution of applicants, averaged over all years, is interesting. A large majority of applicants were not direct from their first degree. These career changers are the people most likely to benefit from the cash, because they most likely have been earning and may have mortgages. Fig 2 shows the distribution.

Have the Scholarships been a success? I think the answer is a resounding yes. Applications certainly increased as a result of their introduction and the proportion of entrants to teacher training with 1st or 2(i) class degrees increased from 40% to almost 60%. The high proportion of career changers and other anecdotal evidence indicate that we really are reaching people who otherwise would not be applying. And finally, the Institute itself now has access to a cadre of teachers with a real passion for the subject and who have strong links with us so that we can draw on them in our policy work and other activities in support of physics teachers.

Further details can be found at:

Professor Peter Main

Institute of Physics