FROM aerosols to zantac, applied chemistry is the UK’s number one exporter, producing an annual trade surplus of £5 billion, while only graduates in medicine and law earn more on average.
But chemistry departments in UK universities are closing with cost a critical factor in this laboratory-based subject, compounded by the intricacies of publicly-funded teaching and research.
MMU, a traditional provider of chemistry degrees, has won a £300,000 award after the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) set up a special fund for strategic and vulnerable subjects.
The HEFCE project, backed by the Royal Society of Chemistry, is a two-year pilot to ensure the sustainability of part-time chemistry courses not only in Manchester but across England. It aims to change the one-size-fits-all degree to more flexible and bespoke programmes.
Dr Brian Murphy, Head of Chemistry and Materials at MMU, who will lead a national consortium of universities, business and agencies, said: "Part-time chemistry in England has been on the verge of extinction, so leading this initiative is a huge vote of confidence from our peers and recognition from HEFCE of the importance of part-time education and skills development to industry and individuals."
Learn at any age or stage
The pilot will set up three stages of a national open-learning ‘escalator’ and professional learning accounts system through pre-entry for those without formal qualifications or work experience, part-time tertiary education and continuing professional development for those in industry jobs.
Added Dr Murphy: “The strength and quality of the part-time and online distance learning courses at MMU were critical in securing the lead role. Part-time HE provision can be regarded as the last ‘unturned stone’ in widening participation for the chemical sciences.”
The project fits strongly with MMU's objective of allowing students to learn at any time in any place (including the workplace).