A worrying decline
Since 2015, UCAS figures show the number of UK students applying to study the physical sciences has dropped 16%. While this figure includes those studying astronomy and physics, the most recent numbers available for chemistry specifically show a 21% drop between 2015-20181. This is despite the numbers of students sitting A-level chemistry increasing across the UK2.
Conversely, data on international students applying to study the physical sciences at UK universities has increased by 65% from within the EU and 119% from countries outside the EU between 2010 and 20193.
In response to the findings, Danièle Gibney, Education Policy Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “It’s concerning that some A-level students may not understand the opportunities chemistry can offer them, at a point where they’re making crucial career decisions.
“The influx of students from other countries around the world proves young people are still interested in chemistry. The UK’s problem appears to be our inability to provide enough careers advice to help them make informed choices about their further education and career aspirations.
“Chemistry is key to tackling a number of the world’s most pressing problems, from antibiotic resistance to pollution and the need for novel materials to replace plastics. In an era where young people aspire to influence the world, chemistry offers the opportunity to do so in a meaningful and important way.”