First-of-its-kind quantum technology degree launched by University of Sussex
By: Alice Ingall
Last updated: Thursday, 2 November 2023
The University of Sussex has today (Thursday 2 November 2023) launched a new quantum technology degree, the first in the UK to offer undergraduate students quantum technology research experience from day one of their degree. Typically, students don’t contribute to research until their final year of study.
A UK quantum graduate skills shortage, identified by the emerging British quantum technology industry sector, was a motivating factor behind the development of this innovative degree programme.
A 2021 report from CBI Economics, commissioned by the Institute of Physics*, found that 85% of quantum innovators in the UK reported that Research and Development activity had been suspended or delayed because of skills shortages, with 37% reporting skills shortages as a significant barrier to innovation. The report highlighted that quantum innovators were also most likely to struggle to recruit people with specialist physics-related knowledge.
Director of the University of Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies and co-founder of quantum computing spin-out, Universal Quantum, Professor Winfried Hensinger says: “In the future, quantum technologies could help solve some of our most pressing global issues. The UK Government has identified quantum technology as one of five key science, innovation and technology strategic priorities. But currently the UK doesn’t have the necessary number of skilled quantum graduates to ensure that the UK can fulfil the Government’s ambition and compete on a global scale.
“I’m delighted that the University of Sussex is seeking to help tackle this shortage, leading the way in offering students two quantum technologies degree courses, that will both enrich their minds with the wonders of quantum physics, and equip them with the skills and research experience to go on to a fulfilling career in the UK’s burgeoning quantum technology sector. If we are serious about investing in the growth of quantum technology in the UK, we must first start with investing in first-rate training for our students.”
Quantum technologies have the potential to solve some critical challenges facing humanity; from developing life-saving medicines and better electrical vehicle batteries, to reducing energy consumption in commercial aviation and fertilizer production, right through to protecting national security and revolutionizing the financial sector.
Students on the new Physics (Quantum Technology) (research placement) MPhys will be associated with a Sussex quantum technology research group, gaining hands-on experience in the lab from the very beginning of their degree. Students on both this course, as well as the Physics (Quantum Technology) MPhys, launched by the University earlier this year, will benefit from the expertise, industry connections, and ground-breaking research being carried out in the Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies. The Centre is a Centre of Excellence at the University of Sussex; a classification reserved for world-leading research that will drive progress and make an important contribution to the planet and its people.
A key aim of the Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies is to train the next generation of quantum physicists and engineers. Students in the Centre have the opportunity to help develop real-world devices, working with industry as part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme. The Centre is associated with leading quantum computing spin-out Universal Quantum, who are currently working with Sussex students and academics on building a quantum computer at the University. The Centre also led on the creation of the world’s first blueprint for constructing a large-scale trapped ion quantum computer.
Professor Sasha Roseneil, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: “The University of Sussex is home to researchers working at the forefront of quantum technology. This new degree programme will enable students to benefit from that expertise, gaining first-hand experience of, and contributing to, world-changing research from the very start of their course.
“Sussex is investing significantly in quantum computing and technology in recognition of their potential to positively impact so many people across the world. These technologies are set to have ground-breaking applications – from improving the development of medicines, creating new materials, to maybe even unlocking solutions to the climate crisis. Our degree programme means students can now be a part of this journey.”
Applications for both the Physics (Quantum Technology) (research placement) MPhys and the Physics (Quantum Technology) MPhys are now open for the 2024 academic year.
*Findings cited on the quantum skills shortage are from the CBI Economics 2021 report ‘Paradigm Shift’, commissioned by the Institute of Physics (IoP). They are referenced in the IoP’s 2022 ‘A Vision for Quantum Technologies’ report on page 25.