Petition Closed

Hire a dedicated plant biologist

This petition had 234 supporters

At the end of this academic year the only dedicated plant biologist at UCL is moving on and will not be replaced.

Not only will this bring an end to the last remaining plant-focussed module, but also to all the plants-based elements of different modules that have been papering over the cracks, in a wider decline.

It has been made clear through the teaching committee that regardless of losing a member of staff, there is not sufficient funds to hire a replacement, or to hire any new staff for the foreseeable future.

As a result, UCL, one of the top universities in the world, will have no plant-based element to any of its teaching in the Biological Science degree pathway, or indeed in any other life science pathway. This seriously weakens the degree as a whole, especially in its reputation compared to other universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, UEA that still have active plant science.

This is by no means a new development; staff have been campaigning for years to increase the amount of plant based teaching available. There has been a drastic decline from the time UCL had its own farm land and a greenhouse on the roof of the Darwin building. Some years ago an attempt to rectify the situation by connecting with Rothamsted Research failed due to short-sightedness and an inability to appreciate the value in such a connection. 

Neither has the study of plant biology become any less relevant in a time where climate change and food security are two of the biggest challenges the world faces. 

As the standard undergraduate science degree is only 3 years, this gradual decline may not have triggered the general student body’s attention. However it is clear, that over the last decade there is much less diversity in the modules available. Many students would have taken more plant-based modules relevant to our streams, Plant Genetics or Plant Cell biology for example but this vital aspect of our ecosystem and how it interplays with eukaryote life is left unfunded.

This is not a call for a Botany course, UCL will never be a powerhouse in this area. It is however a call to prevent extreme short-sightedness from occurring by eradicating plant biology from the curriculum.

Please sign this petition to ask the Dean of Life Sciences, Geraint Rees to find a fair distribution of funding to Biological Sciences degree pathway so that - in particular - Plant Biology is not left by the wayside.

This Telegraph article by Professor Steve Jones sums up the UK wide decline and the importance of plant based research:

Carnegie Institution for Science "Life on earth is not possible without plants. Plants are the primary conduit for the flow of energy from the sun into living organisms and constitute more than 90% of the Earth's biomass. Plants are the source of our food, provide us shelter, shape our environment and supply us with medications. Understanding the basic mechanisms of plant life provides a foundation for solving problems faced by agriculture, the environment, and medicine and for developing practices that enable global sustainability." 

Please contact

This is not a personal problem, but one that I have found to be shared by many students and staff that I have represented throughout the course of my degree: UCL Biology Society President 12-13 and Chair 13-14, Student Academic Representative 11-14 and Student Chair 14-15 and Life Sciences Faculty Student Representative 14-15.

Today: David is counting on you

David McBay needs your help with “UCL, Professor Michael Arthur, Geraint Rees, Michael Arthur: Hire a dedicated plant biologist”. Join David and 233 supporters today.