Chemistry remains central at Sussex: but more money still needed
15 May 2006
The Royal Society of Chemistry welcomes the decision of the University of Sussex to create a new Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, rather than proceeding with earlier plans to scrap its highly-rated chemistry department.
Now the RSC looks to the Government to make more money available to UK university vice-chancellors so that they are not put in the impossible position of having to cut chemistry departments or chemistry courses that are vital to universities with strong science provision in attempts to balance struggling campus budgets.
The RSC has worked since March to keep mainstream chemistry at Sussex since the plans for chemistry closure emerged at the university, and, in doing so, ignited a national debate on the future of science at Britain's universities, where increasingly vice-chancellors view science as expensive and therefore easy targets for cuts.
The closure plan was subsequently condemned by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee which, upon the closure news coming to light, ordered an emergency enquiry into the scheme.
RSC chief executive Dr Richard Pike said: "We welcome the new plan for the creation of a Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and we look forward to working with the university to ensure that in the months and years ahead that chemistry provision continues and is enhanced by its association with its new partner biochemistry.
"This outcome sends a powerful signal to the whole UK science community, to the government and to the general public. Chemistry must not be further weakened at our universities because it is the keystone of science upon which all the others rest; it is essential that we produce chemical scientists to meet the mega-challenges of the 21st century - global warming, sustainable energy and international economic competitiveness."
He added: "The RSC is soon to submit its case for increased university funding to the government's Comprehensive Spending Review. Through it we will restate very clearly our assertion that the Higher Education Funding Council for England must make more money available as a matter of urgency. So long as vice-chancellors struggle to balance their budgets chemistry will be vulnerable because it costs more to maintain than arts, humanities and business subjects.
"But it is a price worth paying. Without a flourishing chemistry community at the country's universities Britain will fail to remain competitive economically and will not meet the environmental and energy demands that this century is already making."
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