Northern Ireland leads the field for physics

16 August 2012

As students across the UK receive their GCE A-Level results the Institute of Physics in Ireland has warmly welcomed the significant rise of 6.8% per cent in the number of students choosing to take the physics course in Northern Ireland.

Children studying

The number of students has risen from 1437 in 2011 to 1536 in 2012, with girls making up almost 31% of the cohort compared with 28% in 2011. Rises in the popularity of physics have also been seen across the UK with a 5% rise in the number of A-Level entrants and with girls now making up 21% of the group overall. This puts Northern Ireland schools firmly in the lead in the effort to encourage more young people to take physics.

This is the sixth consecutive year that the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has announced increases in the number of students choosing to sit examinations in physics.

In Northern Ireland the numbers taking physics at A-level have increased by 23% compared with those in 2006.

Dr Kevin McGuigan, Chair of the Institute of Physics in Ireland commented, “Not only is physics a fascinating subject, qualifications in this area give students a real edge in competition for highly-sought after careers. This is a message that the Institute has been making in partnership with schools and government and that really seems to be hitting home now.” He noted, “2012 has been a fantastic year for physics with the discovery of the Higgs particle at CERN and the recent landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars. These high profile projects which show cutting edge physics and also the results of huge international collaboration, are highly inspirational to young people and a great driver for interest in all the sciences.”

He added “It is something of a contrast to the situation in the Republic of Ireland where there has been a continued fall in the numbers taking Leaving Certificate physics, a significant gender imbalance and almost a quarter of schools are not offering physics at leaving cert level. It is symptomatic of a lack of investment in physics at school level in the Republic. The complete reversal of the decline in the popularity of physics in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK shows what can be done with sustained effort.”