Feed the trees' roots

November 8, 2002

Audits, league tables and the desire to lessen student problems and improve performance are leading to the demise of difficult but fundamental subjects that provide a foundation for the understanding of other subjects.

Chemistry, for example, was until recently a compulsory ancillary subject for biosciences in most universities. It was commonly a two-year course requirement for biochemistry undergraduates. Employers supported this policy.

But combining chemistry ancillaries with biological subjects is on the wane although developments in biology, which are likely to contribute much to the economy, demand more, not less, support from maths and the physical sciences.

We are cultivating trees of knowledge with ever-increasing crowns and withering trunks and roots. The consequence may be die-back in the crown.

Jack Pridham
Emeritus professor of biochemistry
University of London

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