Give cash to pupils who pass chemistry exams, says RSC chief

13 April 2007

RSC chief executive Richard Pike has supported a call by education leaders for school science pupils to be rewarded cash prizes for passing their examinations.

Dr Pike said that it was entirely acceptable for such incentives to be offered, because the RSC already rewarded success with prizes which go to academic research staff as well as to industry.

The call for 500 rewards was made two days ago by the Council for Industry and Higher Education in a review of the supply if young pursing careers needing expertise in science, technology engineering and mathematics known collectively as STEM subjects.

The review said that the government should consider such cash incentives to remedy shortfalls in undergraduates taking those subjects.

Richard Pike stressed that numbers of students taking chemistry at A Level and at university had actually risen in the past three years, with an 18% leap in numbers entering university chemistry courses in that period.

However, although chemistry graduates have high employment rates across a wide variety of occupations, there remains a shortage of the most highly qualified working in the chemical sciences sector, and companies in the UK are having to recruit from overseas. Giving cash incentives to students to study chemistry is one component of a bigger picture (including better careers guidance and promoting the benefits of science more effectively) to rectify this shortfall.

Also he underlined the cash benefits that accrue to chemistry students in their careers as demonstrated by an independent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which identified the fact that students taking the subject gained significantly over arts and humanities graduates during their span of their working lives.

Additionally, he said, there were the personal and moral rewards to be gained by contributing to action on climate change, energy demands, health and hygiene and other world problems like water shortages.

"Chemistry underpins all this and chemists will be much in demand this century. Anything we can do to produce more young chemical scientists should be welcomed."

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