In a move that seems to have taken many senior College figures, as well as the student union and student body, by surprise, the Rector today announced to all staff in Physical and Life Sciences that their faculties are to merge in a new Faculty of Natural Sciences, to be headed up by the current Head of the Department of Physics, Professor Peter Knight. An announcement,2523123&_dad=portallive&_schema=PORTALLIVE was also placed on Spectrum.
Since the dismantling of the Royal College of Science was announced in 2001, in the same restructuring that saw City and Guilds merged with the Royal School of Mines, times have been somewhat troubled for the Faculty of Life Sciences in particular. In August 2004, it was announced that the Faculty of Life Sciences was deemed financially unviable: a situation rectified, following a change of Faculty Principal, largely by the closure of most academic activities at Wye.
Indeed, this will be the fourth restructuring to affect Wye since it merged just five years ago, having been placed in Huxley and RCS, then re-united in a Department of Agricultural Sciences, then placed in the adepartmental Faculty of Life Sciences, and now in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, before teaching activity is eventually transferred out of Imperial to the University of Kent over the coming years.
For the remaining students, at South Kensington and Silwood, they will find themselves once again in a Faculty of comparable size to Engineering and Medicine, with over 2700 undergraduates and 680 PhD students.
Indeed, to old RCS enthusiasts, it is likely to appear that the net effect of the destruction of their Constituent College identity will in fact be little more than a name change, although internal changes from within the separate Faculties, including the reorganisation of Life Sciences research into Divisions, may remain in effect to some extent.
The new Faculty Principal will take on the role fully at the end of December, and structural details of the new Faculty will be finalised for the New Year. The Union will also need to adapt to the new structure, as two current Faculty Unions find themselves in the same Faculty and no longer with any practical doubt as to their connection to the RCS. The outgoing principals of Physical and Life Sciences will return to other commitments, in Research and as Deputy Rector respectively.
Developments are likely to be ongoing through the year; as ever, watch this space.