Strengthen chemical bonds

January 7, 2005

Should we encourage students to study chemistry and, if so, how? Chemistry: The Next Generation is a project promoting chemistry to school and college students who are underrepresented in higher education.

A consortium from the chemistry community secured almost £1 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England Aimhigher National Activity initiative to deliver outreach activities to motivate students to take undergraduate courses in chemical sciences. Another objective of the project is to initiate regional and national collaboration over chemistry training between universities and between universities and industry, and to ensure clear access to resources.

Hands-on activities in labs raise students' interest in chemistry.

Partnerships between schools, colleges, universities and industry provide access to facilities. Underrepresented students need role models to show that a chemistry degree is a realistic and potentially lucrative ambition.

Schools are also invited to campuses and into companies, and visits are made to classrooms to support teachers in the delivery of material.J The uncertain future of chemistry departments is a huge concern for outreach providers, students and parents. Partnerships that raise the aspiration of students through the chemical sciences are dependent on broad regional provision and a diversity of courses in chemical sciences in universities and further education colleges. Closures of chemistry departments, such as those in Exeter, Anglia Polytechnic University, Dundee, King's College London and Queen Mary, University of London, will damage this.

Chemistry: The Next Generation is running as a two-year pilot in the North West, East Midlands and London, but it is intended to be rolled out nationally. Chemistry forms the basis of many UK industries. We hope to help ensure that companies do not look outside the UK for chemists.

Paul Cullis is professor of chemistry at Leicester University and coordinator of the Chemistry: The Next Generation project. Details: www.rsc.org/outreach

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