UCLan bid to restore chemistry provision

May 13, 2005

The University of Central Lancashire is planning to reopen the chemistry department it closed six years ago, bucking the national trend to cut provision in the field.

UCLan is now recruiting chemists and other scientists via a full-page advertisement in today's Times Higher . It plans to admit the first cohort of 20 chemistry undergraduates in 2007, after a gap of ten years.

Initially, the chemists and undergraduates will join the department of forensic and investigative science. If the venture is successful and, in particular, if student recruitment takes off, the plan is to recreate an independent chemistry department.

Dave Phoenix, dean of the faculty of science, is the driving force behind the plan to raise chemistry from the ashes. He said: "I believe (the chemistry department's) closure was due to poor student recruitment and an inability to innovate.

"The core sciences are as important now as they have ever been. With appropriate packaging, innovation, staff and resources, they can recruit and support a research base at national or international level."

UCLan is advertising to fill 20 new academic positions, including a professor and a lecturer in chemistry. In April, it also advertised for up to 20 research assistants and postdoctoral researchers.

The university entered just three of its departments for the 2001 research assessment exercise, with physics rated 4, psychology rated 3a and biology, 3b.

It has recently spent more than £13 million recruiting staff, and improving science infrastructure and equipment, which - it says - is on a par with other research institutions.

Malcolm McVicar, vice-chancellor of UCLan, said the university worked closely with local schools and colleges to interest potential students in its courses.

"We wouldn't do this unless it stacked up in terms of business. It's hard work, but if we don't do it, we'll end up closing departments and that's crazy," he said.

Simon Campbell, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: "This is great news for chemistry and hopefully it will set an example across the science sector."

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