Chemical bothers

May 2, 2003

The closure of chemistry departments at King's College London and at the University of Kent at Canterbury must sadden, but scarcely surprise, anyone who has worked in a UK chemistry department.

This government may have supported the science base by increasing research council funding, but the same is not true of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The main problem is the inadequate level of the unit of resource that Hefce provides for each chemistry student. This is compounded by the decreased value attached to a high research assessment grade.

It is extraordinary that when the government aims to increase the 18-to-21 age group in tertiary education, so little thought is given to ensuring that a proper proportion of them enters adequately funded physical sciences and engineering departments.

These subjects have much to contribute to the UK's economic wellbeing.

Surely vice-chancellors should be fighting for their hard-pressed science and engineering departments, not threatening to close them.

Ian W. M. Smith
Mason professor of chemistry (emeritus)
University of Birmingham

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