Coventry University will be weaker if it abandons chemistry
22 February 2005
If reports that Coventry University is to abandon chemistry are well-founded then it represents another blow to science provision in the UK and to the West Midlands in particular.
The Evening Telegraph in Coventry interviewed the Coventry vice-chancellor, subsequently reporting that "once the current chemistry students have finished their courses staff will either lose their jobs or be asked to help teach the more popular forensic science course, materials and nursing courses."
President of the Royal Society of Chemistry Dr Simon Campbell said today: "This threat to chemistry at Coventry is disturbing coming in the wake of the axing of Exeter University's department and of others at Kings College London, Queen Mary and Swansea.
"Just seven weeks ago the education secretary Charles Clarke urged vice-chancellors to preserve and encourage subjects including chemistry and the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee is now examining the issue of strategic science provision at England's universities."
Dr Campbell, who also heads the RSC Campaign for the Chemical Sciences, added: "Only last week we witnessed a sobering example of the consequences of chemistry being abandoned when the Medical Research Council announced it would move its National Institute for Medical Research to UCL rather than Kings because of perceived strengths in physics and chemistry."
"If Coventry go ahead and drop chemistry they will be weakening their whole science base as evidenced by the Kings' experience. Also they will be dropping a subject of significant importance to the West Midlands industrial and commercial community, thus making the region less appealing to business investment."
The Science and Technology Select Committee began its investigation into university science provision two weeks ago and will hear oral evidence from Simon Campbell on 2 March, when he will echo, and expand on, messages that the RSC has already submitted in written form.
"I aim to drive home as emphatically as possible the key, central message that chemistry is indispensable and that increased funding is essential to stabilise the chemical science base regionally and nationally.
"We acknowledge that chemistry is more expensive than arts and humanities to teach and to research but to allow it to atrophy across the UK for short-term budget balancing would be to invite serious and early consequences for the health and wealth of Britain."
Coventry University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Madeleine Atkins told the RSC that her organisation was investing in Chemistry with Forensic Science and widening its Postgraduate courses that include chemistry, rather than pursuing what she believed was a shrinking undergraduate market for traditional chemistry degrees.
"We believe firmly that we are demonstrating an on-going commitment to science by moving to multi-disciplinary degrees where we can see future demand, rather then continuing with a single-discipline course with declining numbers. Graduates who are scientifically literate are well regarded by a wide-range of employers including the health service and we are responding to skill needs regionally and nationally."
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