Frequently asked questions

Chemistry experiment in lab

Applying for our degree programmes

What are the best combinations of A-level subjects for a Chemistry degree at Birmingham?

We are flexible in only requiring that you are studying A-level Chemistry (or equivalent) combined with two other subjects. However, the inclusion of at least one supporting subject, such as Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Computer Science, is beneficial.  We also appreciate the value of non-science subjects, such as English, History, Social Sciences and languages, which can provide extended writing skills and a breadth to your knowledge.

Do I need A-level Maths?

No; however many aspects of Mathematics at A-level (or equivalent) will be useful during your Chemistry degree. We do not require A-level Maths because we provide a self-paced introductory Maths module in Semester 1, which will bring you up to speed with the common mathematical techniques needed for chemistry. All students take this module, whether they have A-level Maths or not, since not all A-level Maths syllabuses cover the same material.  The success of this approach means that all our students have the same opportunity to achieve our highest degree classifications, regardless of whether they had previously taken A-level Maths or not.

What are the typical A-level entry requirements?

Our standard A-level entry requirements for students applying in 2020/21 are:

  • MSci programmes: AAA-AAB
  • BSc programmes: AAB-ABB

We treat each application individually, ensuring that we make an offer that is tailored to you. To this end, all promising applicants within the UK are invited to attend an Applicant Visit Day. Following this, our offer will usually be based on three subjects (one of which must be Chemistry) in addition to:

  • The subjects you are taking at A-level (most important)
  • Your past examination results (GCSEs and AS results)
  • Your personal statement
  • Your school/college reference

Do you accept other qualifications besides A-levels?

Yes, we welcome applications from students studying other courses, such as the International Baccalaureate, European Bacc., Scottish Highers etc. Please refer to the specific course details for our typical IB offer ranges; for all other qualifications, please contact a member of the Admissions Team.

Do you accept Extended Project Qualification?

Yes, if you achieve a grade A in your EPQ this can reduce your offer by 1 grade.  For example:

BSc:

  • BBB with a supporting subject + A in EPQ
  • ABB with no supporting subject + A in EPQ

MSci:

  • ABB with a supporting subject + A in EPQ
  • AAB with no supporting subject + A in EPQ

Will I be invited to an Applicant Visit Day?

Yes, all promising applicants who are based in the UK will be invited to attend an Applicant Visit Day.

What happens on an Applicant Visit Day?

If, after having reviewed your UCAS application, we are keen to make you an offer, we shall invite you to attend one of our Applicant Visit Days, which we hold weekly from November through to March.

Attending one of these days will not only provide us with an opportunity discuss your application with you, but will also provide you with a valuable opportunity to see the School, our beautiful campus and the halls of residence, as well as chat to members of staff, and perhaps more importantly, to some of our current students. Importantly, the Applicant Visit Day will also provide you with an opportunity to experience our teaching methods at first-hand, including a lecture, lab work and a problem-based learning activity.

We want these days to provide you with the information you need in order to make an informed decision as to whether or not to choose Birmingham when you make your firm and insurance decisions. Obviously you can contact us at any time, before or after attending an Applicant Visit Day, for more information.

What if I am unable to attend an Applicant Visit Day?

We generally do not make offers to Home applicants whom we have not met. However, we acknowledge that there are also reasons why you may be unable to attend one of our Applicant Visit Days, in which case, please let us know and we will arrange to conduct a telephone interview.

When do you make offers?

We make offers throughout the admissions cycle and generally very soon after we have met an applicant at one of our Applicant Visit Days.

What happens when we make you an offer?

If we make you an offer, we will take into account the qualifications you already have and then set out clearly in writing any subjects and grades that are the conditions of our offer. Soon after receiving an offer letter from the School of Chemistry, successful applicants will receive the official offer which is made by the University based upon our recommendations.

Is there any advantage to applying early?

No, we recognise that schools and colleges deal with UCAS applications in different ways; some encourage their students to submit their applications early, others do not. We therefore make offers throughout the cycle and generally after we have met an applicant atone of our Applicant Visit Days.

Should I do an MSci or a BSc degree?

Many students worry about this question when making their UCAS application. To allay these concerns, a major benefit of our degree structure is its flexibility: students enrolled on BSc programmes can transfer on to the MSci programme and vice versa. The first two years of both degree types are the same; thus the decision can be delayed until the end of Year 2. It is for this reason that we make an offer guarantee with our MSci offers. This states that should you accept an MSci offer as your firm choice, but when your results are released you only meet the conditions of the BSc offer, then we will guarantee you a place on our BSc degree programme. During your studies, if you make suitable progress (typically this means achieving 60% or higher in your year mark average), you will have the option to transfer to the MSci by the end of Year 2 at the latest.

As a very rough guide, students who are considering a scientific career usually take an MSci degree, whilst those who are considering other directions, such as teaching, accountancy or law, usually take a BSc degree.

What is the difference between an MSci and MChem programme?

There is no difference between the two programmes. It is just that different universities use different terms to describe their four-year taught undergraduate masters degree programmes and both are equally recognised by potential employers. MSci and MChem programmes are also regarded as equivalent by the Royal Society of Chemistry and are treated as such in their accreditation of courses.

Should I be considering the Foundation Year programme?

Our Chemistry with Foundation Year programme (F103) is specially designed for students who are motivated to study chemistry at degree level but have been away from education for some time and/or whose qualifications do not allow their direct entry on to one of our honours programmes.

We also offer the Foundation Pathways at Birmingham Foundation Academy, which is specially designed for candidates who are motivated to study chemistry at degree level but whose qualifications do not allow their direct entry on to one of our honours programmes and whose first language is not English. Both of these programmes are also attractive to mature students who may need a period of retraining before beginning a degree.

Can I take a gap year?

Yes, if you wish to defer starting your degree and take a year out so you can travel or work, then all you need to do is complete the UCAS application as normal ensuring you have the appropriate start-date. We will treat your application in the same way as all the others we receive.

Our courses

All of our MSci programmes are four years in duration. Our BSc programmes are three-year courses.

We offer a range of Single Honours and Major-Minor Combined Honours undergraduate degree programmes.

Can I transfer between BSc and MSci courses?

Yes, since the first two years of our MSci and BSc single honours programmes are the same, it is possible to change your registration from MSci to BSc, and vice versa, at any time in Years 1 and 2; however, you will need to achieve a Year 2 mark of 60%, or higher in order to remain on the MSci programme.

Are there progression criteria to remain on a particular degree programme?

Yes, in order to remain enrolled on an MSci programme, you will need to achieve a Year 2 mark of 60%, or higher.

Students enrolled on our MSci Chemistry with Industrial Experience (UCAS code: F104) and MSci Chemistry with Study Abroad (UCAS code: F106) programmes additionally need to achieve a Year 1 mark of 60%, or higher, to remain on these two programmes. If you do not achieve this threshold, you will be transferred onto our MSci Chemistry programme (UCAS code: F101).

Is it possible to change my Chemistry course when I arrive at Birmingham?

Yes, providing you satisfy the entry requirements for the degree programme you wish to transfer on to, the flexible nature of our course structure allows you to change courses when you arrive. We encourage students who are considering changing course to discuss this with their personal tutor and if after this, they still wish to transfer, to do so as early as possible, and definitely before they start their second year of study. In some cases, such as transferring between a single honours and a major-minor course, changes need to be made much earlier (usually within the first couple of weeks).

Can I spend time in industry?

Yes, if you are interested in gaining valuable work experience in industry as part of your degree, then you should consider our MSci Chemistry with Industrial Experience degree programme (F104).

What companies host students on your Chemistry with Industrial Experience degree programme?

We have been running this programme for many years and we have a partnership with a wide range of companies who have hosted our students. There is great variety in the types of placements you can choose, so the first step is to meet with our Industrial Placement Coordinator so that you are aware of the options and this will help you identify what placement is likely to suit you best.

To give you an idea of the diversity, in recent years we have had students placed at companies working in pharmaceuticals, household products, food technology, environmental materials, nuclear materials, energy, petrochemicals and advanced material manufacture.  Companies have included AkzoNobel, Astra Zeneca, AWE, BASF, Cornelius Specialities, Dupont-Teijin, E.ON, Evotec, Fosroc, GSK, Innospec, Johnson Matthey, Lubrizol, Molson Coors, Mondelez, Nestle, Phillips66, Pfizer, Reckitt Benckiser, Robinson Brothers, Roche, Solutia, STFC, Sygnature Discovery, and U-Pol.

Will I get paid during my year out in industry?

Yes, contact us for typical salaries.

Can I spend time studying abroad?

Yes, if you are interested in spending a year studying abroad as part of your degree, then you should consider our MSci Chemistry with Study Abroad degree programme (F106). Currently, Birmingham has an arrangement with universities in the following countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Sweden, USA, Canada, Brazil, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

Can I combine Chemistry with a Modern Language?

Yes, if you are interested in developing your modern language skills, then you should consider our Chemistry with a Modern Language degree programmes (MSci F1RY, and BSc F1R9)

I’m into computers; will I be able to take classes related to Computer Science?

Yes, the topic of computational chemistry is an increasingly important area of chemistry. We have some world-leading researchers in this field and they have designed modules within our courses.  For example, it is possible to choose computational chemistry options in Years 2, 3 and 4.

In addition, you can take an additional year "sandwiched" between the second and third years studying core Computer Science at the School of Computer Science as part of your chemistry degree. Successfully completing your intercalated year in Computer Science; you will graduate with a degree ‘Chemistry with a Year in Computer Science'.

Will I do a research project?

Yes, it is a requirement that all students graduating from the University of Birmingham have done an element of project work as part of their degree. Students enrolled on both BSc and MSci degree programmes in Chemistry will carry out a research project in their final year. The research project forms a particularly important component of the fourth year for our MSci students, many of whom decide to continue their studies after by enrolling on a PhD programme.

How much does each year count towards my final degree mark?

This depends on which degree programme you are following. In all cases, however, your first year mark does not count towards your final degree mark, although of course you need to pass this year in order to progress on to Year 2. Typically, Year 2 of BSc programmes contributes 25%, and Year 3 75%, to your final degree mark, whilst for MSci programmes, Year 2 contributes 20%, Year 3 40% and Year 4 40%.

How is your Chemistry course structured?

Each year contains 120 credits of taught material, delivered in modules typically worth 10 or 20 credits.

  • Years 1-3

Core Chemistry (60 credits):

Students on both single honours and major/minor degree programmes take these modules. Modules cover the fundamentals of inorganic, organic, physical, analytical and theoretical chemistry.

Laboratory modules (40 credits):

With embedded communications and employability skills, designed to support core courses, allowing for developing practical skills and techniques as well as consolidating associated theory.

Years 1 and 2 - Broad range of laboratory classes to develop key practical skills.
Year 3 - Open-ended research projects (1-2 weeks long).

Additional modules (20 credits):

Year 1 - Maths module (Semester 1); Data Analysis module (Semester 2).
Years 2 and 3 - Optional chemistry courses.

  • Year 4

Significant flexibility in fourth and final year: 60 credits of taught modules from a range of courses pitched at the cutting edge of the discipline; 60 credits of a major research project

Teaching and learning

How many hours of teaching will I have in a typical week?

Compared with many subjects, Chemistry students have lots of contact time with the staff who teach them. For example, in Year one and Year 2 students spend on average 15 hours per week in lectures, tutorials, workshops and lab classes. Year three consists of 12-17 hours per week (lectures, workshops and project work) depending on module choices.

Do you offer small-group tutorials?

Yes, our experience shows that students value the opportunity to learn in small groups and benefit from working closely with a member of staff, who runs each session to address individual problems. Our small-group (up to 7 students) tutorials run throughout your first two years alongside lecture courses which allows you to use these sessions to consolidate the lecture material as well as test your understanding through problem-solving exercises.

What forms of assessment do you use?

We assess each module independently, using a wide range of assessment methods to test the various learning outcomes of our courses, including end-of-year examinations, written assignments, oral and poster presentations, computer-based tests, laboratory and project reports. Some modules are completely assessed by coursework.

What feedback will I get?

We place a strong emphasis on providing prompt and informative feedback on all pieces of work that you submit during your studies. Feedback comes in a variety of forms including written feedback on pieces of assessment, class feedback sessions as well as particularly valuable one-on-one discussions with your tutors; however in all cases, the feedback you receive will highlight areas where you are performing well as well as those areas which require more attention. Continual guidance on how to improve further will increase your performance and understanding of the subject as well as your own personal development.

What about teaching quality?

We review our degree programmes annually and are continually seeking to innovate and enhance our courses. One measure of teaching quality is the National Student Survey (NSS). In the 2019 National Student Survey (NSS), the School of Chemistry received 98% in Overall Satisfaction placing the School 1st in the Russell Group in overall student satisfaction with their Chemistry course.

What happens if I fail a module?

Students take 120 credits of taught material each year and typically need to pass a minimum of 100 credits in order to be allowed to progress on to the next year. Should you not pass a module first time around, then there is usually an opportunity to re-sit the examination for the module in August. If you pass second time round, then you gain the credits associated with that particular module.

What proportion of students on the Chemistry programme are female?

Typically just over 50% of our chemistry undergraduate students are female

Does the School provide a teaching package for its undergraduates?

Yes, all students in the School are provided with the following materials to support their studies throughout their time at Birmingham:

  • safety spectacles
  • laboratory book
  • all laboratory equipment required throughout your time with us is provided free of charge
  • a complete set of laboratory scripts in advance of all lab classes
  •  access to the University’s web-learning platform on which we offer additional learning support for lab classes (and, of course, lecture courses), including video recordings of lab procedures, which can be accessed at any time should you need to learn a new technique or indeed refresh one that you might have not practised for a while
  • your own ‘key skills’ framework which is embedded within our laboratory course programme, ensuring that you maintain a record of the techniques you acquire and develop during the course
  • lecture notes and additional support material for all courses
  • chemistry data book
  • membership of the Royal Society of Chemistry in your final year of study when arguably it is most valuable as you will be considering your career options
  • free membership to the University’s Chemistry Society, ChemSoc, throughout your time at Birmingham
  • access to University-wide schemes that improve employability and skills training for Birmingham graduates. A particularly valuable scheme is the Personal Skills Award scheme, which is aimed at developing your employability skills by encouraging you to be involved in skill development sessions, online courses, taught modules, work experience and on campus activities such as sports opportunities and student groups.

Can undergraduates do projects with members of staff during the Summer?

Yes, many members of staff allow students to join their research groups in the Summer.

I’m considering becoming a teacher; what support do you provide?

We provide training for anyone wishing to become involved in promoting science in the community. Birmingham Chemistry students can take part in the planning, preparations and delivery of outreach activities in local schools and community events. In addition, in Year 3 you can choose a project on an educational topic or undertake research in chemical education. All of these activities will help you prepare for a career in teaching. Indeed, your next step may be to undertake a teacher training course offered by the School of Education here at the University of Birmingham and we have strong links with this course to support you if this is your chosen career.

Can undergraduates participate in outreach activities?

Yes, we provide ample opportunities and training for our students who wish to engage in science education as promoting science and chemistry in schools and in the general public is one of our high priorities. We regularly organise school visits and host activities for schools with the help of our undergraduates and postgraduates. You can learn more about our outreach activities here:

How will my studies be supported?

To help you transition from School to university, you will be assigned an academic member of staff who will act as your personal tutor, checking in with you throughout your entire time spent with us, which includes making sure you’re settling in well when you first arrive.

You will also be assigned an academic tutor in each of the three core areas of chemistry taught during the first two years (Organic, Inorganic and Physical chemistry). Small non-assessed group tutorials of no more than seven students are held regularly to help cement key concepts learned in lectures and to give students the opportunity to ask questions in a relaxed and informal environment.

What if I need some non-academic support?

Our Chemistry Welfare Officer is here to support you with any non-academic areas and holds regular drop-in sessions where you can talk confidentially about anything that may be worrying you. They can refer you to additional resources or services to ensure that you are fully equipped with the tools you need to succeed at Birmingham.

Chemistry at Birmingham

What facilities does the School have?

Over the last ten years, the University of Birmingham has invested more than £100M in the infrastructure of the School of Chemistry. In 2018, our £40M state-of-the-art new Collaborative Teaching Laboratory opened to provide an exceptional learning environment and equip our students with the relevant skills needed for their future careers. 

Since learning how to use these state-of-the-art analytical tools is a vital part of your training for a future career in research or in the chemical industry, instruction in the theory behind these techniques, as well as using them in practice, forms an integral part of our undergraduate degree programmes. Further information on the current analytical facilities and instrumentation that are housed in the School.

In addition, construction work is soon to start on a £80m new home for the School of Chemistry. This will provide both laboratory and study spaces for our Undergraduates from 2023. In particular, final year MSci research projects will be undertaken in this outstanding new facility for those beginning studies with us from 2021.

Do you have a student-run Chemistry Society?

Yes, we are a very sociable School and have a very active Chemistry Society (ChemSoc), which is run by our undergraduates and postgraduates and is very inclusive in getting everyone involved in ChemSoc activities, which include the School’s annual black tie ball, various charity events, hosting visiting speakers, and debates.

Careers

What types of careers do Birmingham Chemistry graduates enter after they have graduated?

Birmingham Chemistry graduates possess excellent core skills in numeracy and literacy, as well as highly-developed problem-solving, team-working, time-management, communication and IT skills. These skills, combined with an in-depth knowledge of Chemistry, equip our graduates well for today’s fast-changing job market, and ensure they are highly sought after by a wide range of employers across the chemical industries and beyond.

Previous graduates have had successful careers as chemists in the chemical, pharmaceutical, healthcare and food and drink sectors, working for employers including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Procter and Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Severn Trent Water, Akzo Nobel and BAE Systems. Others have taken positions as project managers, business analysts, management consultants and accountants in blue-chip companies like Marks and Spencer, RBS, HSBC and Ernst and Young

The employability of our graduates is paramount and employability support is embedded throughout our degree programmes. Working with our team of Careers Advisers you will develop and hone your employability skills from Year 1 onwards, through courses, workshops and seminars. We maintain close contacts with our Alumni, and graduates who are now in senior roles within industry regularly return to Birmingham to participate in seminars and workshops, as well as informal networking, advising students on how to succeed in the jobs market. Skills training is also embedded throughout the course to ensure you develop the skills that employers have said they view as crucial: written and spoken communication skills, presentation skills, team-working, interpersonal skills and problem-solving.

Do many students stay on to do PhDs?

Yes, we are very lucky to have many talented scientists on our undergraduate degree programmes and a significant proportion these take up PhDs on graduating. Whilst some choose to move to a different institute for their PhD studies, the world-class facilities offered by Birmingham encourage many to stay.

Fees and finances

Does the University provide any financial support in the form of bursaries?

Yes, the University of Birmingham is committed to ensuring that fears about financing do not constrain prospective students from considering applying. View information on financial support.

How much are the fees?

View to find information on our tuition fees

Will I pay reduced fees whilst on my year out in industry?

Yes, students on our Chemistry with Industrial Experience MSci (UCAS code F104) pay reduced fees whilst on their year out. Further information of our fees page.

Will I pay reduced fees when I am studying abroad at one of Birmingham’s partner institutions?

Yes, if you are enrolled on our Chemistry with Study Abroad programme you will pay reduced fees. Further information of our fees page.

Do I have to pay a laboratory deposit?

No, this is covered by your fees.

Scholarships

Do you offer scholarships?

Yes, we are proud to offer a range of high-value scholarships that reward academic excellence and potential.

Entry Scholarships for Home and EU Students:

General Eligibility Criteria

  • Achieve a minimum of A*AA at A Level or equivalent AND
  • Make Birmingham Chemistry your firm choice before the UCAS deadline.

International Baccalaureate: 18 at HL with at least 6 at HL Chemistry.

Haworth Scholarships
Four £5,000 scholarships are awarded to the highest achieving students based on A Level performance. Named after Birmingham's most famous chemist, the Sir Norman Haworth Scholarships are typically awarded to students who achieve A*A*A*.
Excellence Scholarships:
Six £3,000 scholarships are awarded to the next highest achieving students based on A Level performance.  
Achievement Scholarships:
Typically £1,000 scholarships are awarded to all students who achieve at least A*AA at A Level or equivalent. (Monetary value will depend on funds available and those awarded a Haworth or Excellence Scholarship are ineligible).

Do you offer scholarships to International students?

Yes, we also offer scholarships to International students. All International fee status students entering the School and satisfying the criteria below receive an International Chemistry Achievement Scholarship worth:

£2,000 in Year 1 renewable annually subject to attaining full credits and an overall Year Mark of at least 70%

Eligibility Criteria

  • Achieve A*AA at A Level including Chemistry or equivalent AND
  • Place Birmingham Chemistry as firm choice before UCAS deadline

Do you offer sports scholarships?

Yes, the University of Birmingham supports around 125 individual athletes across a range of tailored sport scholarship programmes. Our dedicated Scholarships Management team work collectively with the Performance Centre to support and promote dual-career athletes, forming strong links with academic departments, coaches and governing bodies to ensure that these athletes are supported from all angles. Through the promotion and maintenance of a high performance environment, the team facilitates the progress of scholars into senior-international and elite-level sport.

Do you offer music scholarships?

Yes, the University of Birmingham offers approximately 17 hours of musical tuition per year for three years (total cash value of £3,000). These scholarships are open to prospective students performing at a grade 8 standard in an instrument or vocals and have an offer of a place on a full-time undergraduate programme (other than a Music Department programme).

View full details and eligibility criteria on scholarships