Four universities in England now offer a new style of science degree - the Institute of Physics' Integrated sciences degree course
In September the Institute of Physics (IOP) launched its new degree course, Integrated sciences or Isciences, in the Universities of Leicester, Surrey, and East Anglia, and London South Bank University.
Developed and piloted at Leicester, the degree is part of the IOP's Stimulating physics programme, which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as part of its support for strategically important and vulnerable subjects.
The course is designed to appeal to students with an interest in science but who find the idea of studying a single discipline degree too restrictive. Underpinning the course is the idea that new global challenges, such as climate change, will increasingly require scientists to have broader and more interdisciplinary backgrounds. Consisting of a third physics, the rest of the curriculum reflects the expertise within the host institutions. Modules relating to chemistry, mathematics and biology are common components of the course.
In each university the Isciences course is delivered using a problem-based approach to learning. Students work in teams to solve interdisciplinary problems. These provide contexts and create the need for the students to learn the fundamentals of the sciences by providing a real goal. The design of the course also aims to develop the transferable skills (eg team work, IT and communication) that employers value in science graduates.
Each institution offers the course as a BSc programme but some offer extended four-year programmes incorporating a foundation year (London South Bank), or a personal training year (Surrey), or which result in an MSci qualification (Leicester). Each university also offers students routes onto specialist chemistry and physics degree programmes after completing two-three years of the Isciences course.
Initial feedback from the pilot at Leicester shows that industry is eager for graduates with such a degree: all students who graduated from the course in 2007 are either in graduate employment or on extended education courses, eg teacher training. For further information on the course options available at each of the four institutions visit the Integrated sciences website.