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Who is studying chemical sciences in UK universities and kinds of jobs do these degrees lead to?

Concern about declining numbers studying chemistry at senior secondary school and undergraduate levels fuelled the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Campaign for the Chemical Sciences. In line with concern about the need to invest in such high level skills and knowledge to maintain and develop the knowledge base for the economy, support technological innovation sustain global competitiveness, there is widespread concern from employers and policy makers to encourage participation in science, engineering and technology (SET) subjects.

This project was part of a two year pilot programme of research and other initiatives to ensure a strong and sustainable future for chemical science higher education, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HESA), involving over 20 separate projects and 30 universities. An IER team that included Dr. Charlie Ball, a labour market analyst at the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU) who is also a Warwick Chemistry Graduate, was commissioned to conduct a comprehensive investigation of factors affecting the employment of chemical sciences graduates in the UK.

In addition to detailed investigation of secondary sources, three new investigations were carried out: an online survey of final year undergraduate students; a range of interviews with a sub-sample of Chemical Science second year students included in the Futuretrack research programme; and a telephone survey of targeted employers who had recently advertised vacancies specifically seeking chemical sciences graduates or for which chemical science graduates (both undergraduate and postgraduate) would have been eligible to apply. The objective of the exercise as a whole was to map the characteristics and variables that influence career outcomes of chemical sciences graduates, and the extent to which they satisfy demand from employers for people with their skills and qualifications.

The project was directed by Professor Kate Purcell, working with Dr Ball at HECSU and Gaby Atfield at the Institute. Professor Peter Elias, who has worked extensively with Professor Purcell on graduate labour market analysis and originally studied Chemistry as an undergraduate, contributed as project consultant. PDFs of the full report and a summary of it, both published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, both can accessed and downloaded by clicking on the links on the right.

This project is part of a range of research projects being undertaken by staff at IER that investigates the relationship between higher education and employment. For more information about this and related projects contact E dot J dot Gould at warwick dot ac dot uk