Charlotte Church and Physics

I just noticed an interesting news item about popular vocal artiste Charlotte Church. Apparently she is thinking about doing a degree in physics. She is quoted on the BBC Website as saying

“I just think it’s important to keep the brain active and keep educating yourself.

“I have an interest in it and I should try to follow it. It’s something I’ve been interested in for the last year or two.”

I hope she does it, as it will set an excellent example. In the article, however, she also says “I will have to do an A-level in physics and maths first though”. That’s not necessarily the case, actually. It is possible instead to opt for a physics degree programme with a Foundation year. Many universities run such programmes. We have one here at the University of Sussex but there is also one at Cardiff University, which happens to be in Charlotte Church’s home town.

These courses are specifically designed for people who didn’t do the traditional mix of A-level subjects for a Physics degree and I always recommend that students who are coming to the subject late in life give them serious consideration rather than assuming they should go via the usual A-level route. Widening participation in higher education by offering such access courses is something many universities work very hard at and do very well.

In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, that the current A-level Physics courses are part of the reason why we have so few female physics students; the fraction is a meagre 20%. That might start to change if high-profile women like Charlotte Church lead the way, but in the mean time it’s definitely worth thinking about alternatives to A-level such as those I’ve described.

In any case, and whatever Charlotte Church does decide to do in the future, I’m sure I speak on behalf of the vast majority of physicists when I express thanks to her for putting such a nice story about physics into the news!

POSTRSCRIPT: I wasn’t aware of this when I wrote the above piece, but it seems a former colleague of mine from Cardiff University, Edward Gomez helped get Charlotte Church interested in physics.

2 Responses to “Charlotte Church and Physics”

  1. bobothefishy Says:

    I did the foundation year at Cardiff University, but not for physics, for chemistry. I did do A-levels but I really hated school and I didn’t get the grades I should have got – and needed. I now have a first class degree, so I honestly think that A-levels are not at all fit for purpose.
    That’s aside the point though. I think it would be great if a popular female celebrity did a degree in a physical science, there is a distinct lack of females going up the chain!

  2. Michael Kenyon Says:

    I might be an auld cynic but I tend to find that saying you are going to do something, and actually doing it, are vastly different things. My garden is evidence of this.

    It would be a little more praiseworthy if she said ‘I’ve a degree’, or at least ‘I’m studying for one’.

    Is it the musings of someone hoping to inspire, or the desperate attempt of a person who had a brief taste of fame in a far and distant land.

    Still If it gets her mush back on the television then job done!

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