The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is to reduce the budget of its physics and materials programmes. Maths and IT will both receive increases, while engineering and chemistry will remain unchanged. The size of the cuts will be decided early next year.

Richard Brook, EPSRC's chief executive, said that the council felt that maths and IT, which also funds some physicists, were the most deserving areas. He said that IT was associated with crucial technology, and that maths was having a growing significance, particularly in finance. But he insisted that the cut was not a criticism of UK physics. "The council has finite funds and choices have to be made, " he said. Stuart Ward, EPSRC's physics programme manager, added that the programme needed to have a "clearer focus" and a "demonstrable concentration on new and burgeoning areas".

The news came as a bitter blow to physicists. Mike Springford, head of physics at Bristol University, called the cut "deplorable", while Keith Burnett, an atomic physicist at Oxford University, said he was "disappointed and dismayed".