SEPnet Vision and Aims

SEPnet’s Vision – working together to deliver excellence in physics

The partners in SEPnet are committed to a common Vision and set of aims.

Advancing and Developing our Undergraduate Population

Placements and Employability

Engaging with industry to ensure physics graduates are qualified to meet employers’ skills needs through the delivery of summer placements, employer talks and site visits. Ensuring progression and success for physics undergraduates into employment and research by developing their transferable skills and raising awareness of career opportunities.


Benefits: More SEPnet physics graduates into physics-related employment and research for the benefit of the UK economy.  Improved employment statistics will help SEPnet physics departments attract the best students.


Evidence: A year on year increase in the supply of placements from employers (80 in 2015). More employers willing to fund and provide placements annually. An increased demand for placements from students (300 applications in 2015);  More students being offered jobs by placement employers. .

Diversity and Widening Participation

Addressing the under-representation of women, ethnic minorities and students from low income families in the physics student population. Disseminating best practice amongst outreach and WP practitioners.


Benefits: improves social mobility and increases the quality of physics students and academic colleagues as SEPnet departments draw from the full talent pool.


Evidence: Seven SEPnet departments have been awarded Athena-SWAN Bronze or JUNO Practitioner. One is both JUNO Champion and Athena-SWAN Silver. All have plans to submit certifications, indirectly making departments attractive for diverse students.

Outreach: from Primary to Professional

Developing and growing SEPnet’s well-established programme to schools. The core activities targeted at GCSE students will be strengthened to focus on current research. Over the next three years new evidence-based projects will be developed targeted at under-served audiences in physics of girls,  students from disadvantaged backgrounds and under-represented ethnic minorities. SEPnet Outreach will also explore how best to support science at primary schools.


Benefits: improved diversity and quality of students applying for physics degrees, sustaining and growing undergraduate numbers.


Evidence: Application numbers for physics courses at SEPnet universities have doubled between 2008 and 2013 (a 104% growth) compared with a total UK increase of 65%. SEPnet academics interact with over 40,000 students each year across the region.

Promoting the Accreditation Agenda

Providing a regional voice to influence institutions developing and establishing physics programmes. Sharing good practice on course and professional accreditation and standards for physicists.


Benefits: provides shared expertise to help deliver an up-to-date and evolving undergraduate curriculum which keeps pace with industry and research skills needs.  Ensures best practice is shared to create innovative teaching programmes to attract the best students. Enhances physics as a profession.


Evidence: SEPnet’s Employer Advisory Panel and SEPnet partners provide input to the IOP Accreditation Committee on UG course development and industry skills needs.  GRADnet is working with IOP to develop guidance for best practice in physics graduate training.

Foundation Year Provision – Encouraging Alternative Routes Into Physics

Supporting and promoting Foundation programmes across the network to encourage students from diverse backgrounds and experience to undertake undergraduate physics degrees.


Benefits: widens the pool of physics students and raises awareness of career opportunities with physics.  Creates more professional physicists.


Evidence: Foundation degrees have resulted in high quality students with non- traditional qualifications succeeding at undergraduate and  PhD level

Teacher Training – SEPnet Supportive Role

Delivering the latest research to teachers across the network though varied CPD sessions. Supporting institutions establishing courses combining teacher training and physics.


Benefits: ensures that teachers continue to identify themselves as physicists making them part of local physics communities.


Evidence: Teacher interactions with SEPnet Outreach have quadrupled since 2009.


Outstanding Researcher Training

Breadth and Diversity.

Delivering an innovative, collaborative and world-beating graduate researcher physics training programme. With circa 500 researchers, the combined resources of the GRADnet partners ensure that the very broadest programme can be delivered spanning all fields within the discipline. The facilities available to SEPnet allow us to offer excellent experience through residential schools, workshops, lecture series as well as through innovative use of peer learning, video-conferencing and on-line delivery.


Benefits: improves employability statistics for PhD students and thus improves the number and calibre of applicants for PhD places. Improves opportunities for funding of cohorts of PhD students.

Improves opportunities for the PhD students themselves.


Evidence: Extensive programme of physics lectures available across the network via videoconference and workshops; novel student led peer learning schemes introduced; virtual research environment up and running. In addition to the mature NExT programme 17 new physics courses were video-conferenced with 200 student registrations.

Entrepreneurship, Professional Skills and Employer Engagement

Offering a highly developed professional skills development programme targeted at physics researchers as an integral part of GRADnet’s training programme. Actively promoting and enhancing researcher engagement with industry, developing the very best talent to address the national skills gap in scientific innovation and leadership. Encouraging entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for research students to develop employability skills, access careers advice and build contacts through mentoring, industry consultancy challenges, networking events and industry placements.


Benefits: enhances the value of PhD courses, improves the employment prospects of  postgraduate research students, offers opportunities for research collaboration with industry and access to funding.


Evidence: Approximately 150 physics PhD students have taken part in GRADnet professional skills training courses offered through residential schools and workshops with 19 employers contributing.  48 students have participated in GRADnet “meet the employer” events attended by 54 companies. 72 PhDs have participated in employer engagement activities including mentoring, placements, employer workshops and site visits.

Early Career Researcher Development

Supporting PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and fellows offering access to skills training and development. Sharing best practice across the network on career development support for ECRs through SEPnet’s diversity strategy.


Benefits: contributes to culture change, improved morale and retention of research staff.


Evidence: PDRAs as well as PGRs have participated in GRADnet  activities.   Seven SEPnet departments have achieved Athena-SWAN or JUNO Practitioner awards with GRADnet Diversity Lead’s support.

Research Communities

Facilitating building of physics research communities across partner institutions through GRADnet’s programme of workshops and SEPnet-supported studentships.


Benefits: facilitates collaboration in research; shared expertise and joint working improves competitiveness and grant attracting power .


Evidence: Financial support for physics research workshops. SEPnet sponsored collaborative PhDs (SEPnet 1). Regional PhD recruitment/showcase events have been organised. Between 2013 and 2015 SEPnet funded 12 collaborative research workshops and conferences organised by eight of the SEPnet partners.


Leading the Innovation Agenda – Thought Leadership

Changing the culture through industrial awareness

Producing STEM leaders of the future for the benefit of the wider UK economy. Increasing employer engagement with SEPnet HEIs to enhance students’ and researchers’ business awareness and skills and create opportunities for knowledge exchange.


Benefits: enhances industrial collaboration, increases funding opportunities for sustainability, raises awareness of the value of physics and physicists in industry.


Evidence: Number of undergraduate industry summer placements has grown from 12 in 2009 to 72 in 2015.  Employer engagement for students has increased by 50% in 18 months.  Over 70 industry representatives have participated in GRADnet professional skills training and networking events. Leadership training offered to PhDs through workshops and a summer school.


IPS Fellows & Consultancy

Developing a network-wide knowledge exchange strategy, closely dovetailed with SEPnet’s employer engagement strand, to facilitate collaboration and joint working between industry and physics academics.


Benefits: increases breadth and depth of industrial collaborations for commercialisation and economic value of research. Highlights and improves impact on the economy, will potentially improve REF impact scores for 2020.


Evidence: Building frameworks for SMEs to engage  cost-effectively in pre-competitive collaborative research;  SEPnet’s Employer Advisory Panel meets academics to provide input into knowledge exchange activities.  SEPnet partners have set up industrial liaison committees to strengthen relationships.  Employer contacts have trebled in 2 years to 470 including 35% SMEs.


Placements for Undergraduates and Postgraduate Research Students

Offering short placements to research students to build knowledge of physics applications, develop skills and raise awareness of different career options.


Benefits: improves employability statistics, ensures physics students at all levels are better able to obtain graduate-level employment and that SEPnet physics departments attract the best students.


Evidence: SEPnet offers a unique summer placement scheme for undergraduates attracting 300 applications for 80 2-month placements in 2015. GRADnet has developed an innovative 3-month industry placement and mentoring scheme. 30 employers have expressed interest and 23 students have registered since end of 2014. 4 students on placement  in the first year.

Public Engagement with Research

Engaging the public with the latest research in physics, advocating innovative methods to bring the latest from our institutions to a variety of audiences.


Benefits: Promotes research activities. Improves public awareness of research. Encourages integration of physics departments within their local communities.  Increases the opportunities for impact in REF.


Evidence: Around 50,000 interactions with audiences outside the classroom each year. Over 30 post- graduate students have attended the SEPnet Public Engagement Course since it started. One of these was awarded IOP Early Career Physics Communicator Award.

Developing Impact, Collaborative Research & Joint REF Submissions

Strengthening SEPnet research via a network-wide impact strategy that ensures effective knowledge exchange and delivery of a wide range of impacts from our research. Facilitating the collaboration and sharing of best practice in preparing for the REF 2020.


Benefits: ensures impact opportunities are maximised, creates more grant-pulling opportunities. Aim to improve rankings of all SEPnet partners in the REF, increase the potential for more  funding.


Evidence: Supporting the development of collaborative research bids, eg in quantum technologies; Support for collaborative PhDs (SEPnet 1). A network-wide review of impact scores and outputs post-REF has identified best practice and highlighted the advantage of collaborative submissions. Collaborating on strategies for research environment.