I spent much of Thursday this week in a meeting to defend the proposal of the Physics Department at my University to start a degree course in Physics with Astronomy to the University accreditation committee. The word "defend" sounds a bit, well, defensive. Really, it was not like that, but more that there are a lot of checks to me made, regarding things like syllabus coverage, reasonable methods of teaching and examining, and conforming to University and national expectations, that a panel is always convened to check that we are acting in a sensible way in proposing our new degree. This is rather a British way of doing things, and depending on where you are in the world, you may find the "professionalisation" of degree specifications surprising or not.
Our Physics and Astronomy programme is new, because we have just appointed a new, and pretty large, astro group. The external examiners included members from the University of Sussex, who have a more established astro programme. Historically, we have often been confused for Sussex, perhaps since our names both match the S - U - double consonant - E - consonant at the end of the alphabet pattern. Hopefully our move into astronomy won't make matters worse.
Anyway, the panel were impressed with our degree, and we'll therefore be teaching it from this October onwards. It'll be pretty exciting, I think, having a larger and more general group of both staff and students, and I look forward to seeing our new telescope on top of the management school building. I wonder what the inhabitants of that building will make of it.
The picture attached to this post is from the research website of our new group. Take a look here to find out more.