College physics programs face ax in Texas

Sept. 26, 2011 at 6:51 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Texas says it will go ahead with plans to phase out some university undergraduate physics programs unless they improve their graduation rates.

The state's Higher Education Coordinating Board said nearly half of the 24 undergraduate physics programs at state-funded universities could be closed if they fail to graduate at least 25 students every five years, an article in the journal Nature reported.

"Until now, most faculty members thought their role was to do research and teach courses they were assigned," Michael Marder, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin, said. "Now, researchers at institutions in Texas are going to have to take responsibility for students graduating successfully."

Marder was a member of a group from the American Physical Society that met with the HECB to discuss the situation.

Raymund Paredes, the Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, says there is no intention to target science fields in particular, but in an era of tight higher-education budgets he would not give any discipline exemption from the expectations to perform.

"In this budgetary environment, we can't afford the luxury of programs not producing graduates," he says. "It's up to academic departments faced with closure of programs to salvage them."

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