Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Dr GC Bye

  I write to express my concern at the growing trend of closures of chemistry departments in universities particularly since it seems not to be as a result of shortage of student applicants (although this itself could become serious) but of the cost of providing the subject.

  For the long term, the current trend raises alarm at the prospect of falling numbers of chemistry graduates available for teaching in schools. How often one reads of people who have followed a particular subject through life as a result of enthusiasm inculcated by a stimulating specialist schoolteacher!

  A decline in the number of graduates with skills in the physical and chemical sciences (and engineering) will have serious consequences for the economy on all time scales. I do not believe that our economy can survive on service industries alone. Because of a linking thread of physical chemistry, my own research experience involved: materials for oil industry catalysts, ceramics, cement, the environment (one example acid mine drainage) and low level nuclear wastes and it shows how widely applied chemistry ranges.

  I hope that this timely Enquiry can convey to the Minister for Further and Higher Education the importance of preserving the departments which produce graduates important to the economy. We cannot allow the relatively short term nature of market forces to lead to a continuation of the almost irreversible loss of university resources.

January 2005

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