Where to Study Chemistry in the UK

by Jessica Clifton

Opting to study chemistry and following it as your career path can in itself be a challenging life decision, but it’s also a rewarding one. Those who have a chemistry-related degree can, for instance, work in fossil industries, medical fields, research, and education, amongst many more.  But, in the UK, choosing where to take your path is something that needs serious assessment.

It’s not just an institution’s prestige to consider when choosing where you’ll study chemistry. Studying chemistry could even be done online, in college, or at university. You should also consider course content, your likely chemistry career path, and of course all the non-subject things like distance from home, cost, and what you like about the location.

Your chemistry studies, therefore, will largely depend on various factors that are all tied to considering the right university to study at. But just taken from the 2020 Complete University Guide, these are some of the best places to study chemistry in the UK.

Which are the best universities to study chemistry in the UK?

Studying chemistry means lots of practical lab time
Studying chemistry means lots of practical lab time

Entrance qualifications: ABB grades, including an A in Chemistry and at least two Bs in other sciences

About the course: An A level in chemistry is a must. Graded upon a pre-qualifying exam, Warwick offers a Chemistry BSc with a wide range of introductory overviews and optional modules. Fundamental core subjects in chemistry education such as organic synthesis, polymers, and electrochemistry are incorporated.

What is interesting about Warwick is that it allows their students to tailor their curriculum subjects according to their interests in their third and final year of the BSc. The final year for MSci (Master of Science) students is focused purely on research.

Entrance qualifications: AAB grades, including an A in chemistry and a B in maths or a science subject

About the course: The degrees here, both BSc and MSci, include core chemistry subjects but overlap with other sciences such as biology, programming, physics, and astronomy.

In combined modules, with some options, first years study introductory courses on chemical principles. More modules and eventually experimental studies can be included, with the university being connected to other institutions such as the London Centre of Nanotechnology.

Entrance qualifications: ABB grades which include an A in Chemistry and at least two Bs in other relevant subjects

About the course: You can either take a three-year BSc or a four-year MSci, just like at other universities. Focusing on modern analytical and synthetic chemistry, both of which are practical, first years are heavily engaged in laboratory work. Knowledge of basic principles is accumulated during this time.

Second and third year options include advanced calculus, sustainable chemistry, and contemporary pharmacology, with third years completing internships in major companies’ research laboratories.

Entrance qualifications: ABB grades which include an A grade in chemistry and at least two Bs in other relevant subjects

About the course: Just like the previous universities, students can take either a three-year BSc or four-year MSci programme in chemistry. In both programmes, fundamental subjects like organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry are incorporated into the curricula before other advanced courses.

An incentive of £1000 is given to students with AAA grades at A level in chemistry and two other science or maths subjects.

Entrance qualifications: BBB grades which include chemistry and two relevant subjects; or for higher SQAs, at least ABBB to AAABB grades

About the course: First and second years cover interesting chemistry topics such as spectroscopy, electrochemistry, chemical kinetics, transition metal chemistry, and macromolecules, amongst others. More advanced subjects come later, and include synthetic methods, quantum mechanics, colloids, and medicinal chemistry.

The final year is given over to research programs. The difference at Glasgow is that it offers a five-year MSci which includes a year-long internship programme in the UK or overseas.

This list only includes five from the many notable universities in the UK to study chemistry. More can be found in the Complete University Guide, and include the Universities of Saint Andrews, York, Durham, Cambridge, and Oxford amongst the top choices.

How to study chemistry

Aside from selecting the appropriate learning institution in the UK, you also need to make sure that how you’ll study chemistry suits you, too. Maybe you want to start by learning online, by completing a GCSE or A level, or maybe you’re thinking of an internship. 

If you study chemistry online, you’ll get a student-friendly mode of instruction as you’ll be able to absorb the concepts and principles at your own pace. Occasional breaks or pauses when you need them are arguably necessary, considering the complexity of the subject! 

You might also consider private tutoring, where you’ll get more 1:1 attention. This usually addresses any gaps in understanding, helps you catch up to your lessons if you’ve fallen behind, and works as a preparatory or supplementary means of assisting students who want to excel in chemistry.

How to study A level chemistry

Excelling in chemistry in the UK definitely means you’ll need a chemistry A-level.

A level chemistry gives you a good grounding in chemistry basics
A level chemistry gives you a good grounding in chemistry basics

In order to obtain A level chemistry, you’ll need to get a good grounding in basic chemistry so you’re equipped with the proper knowledge to take your studies further. As with all A levels, consistent study is essential, and an enjoyment of the subject will help as well.

There are also plenty of online resources and chemistry revision apps to help, including lots of YouTube videos that help you visualise theoretical work.

Popular chemistry university courses in the UK

When you’re choosing which university to study chemistry at, it’s also important to look at the different modules they offer, when they support work placements, and the division between theoretical and practical work. These are some popular modules you may want to look out for: 

  • The global Earth system
  • Solid state chemistry
  • States of matter
  • Chemistry for the physical sciences
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Mineralogy and petralogy
  • Studying chemistry at university
  • Organic and biological chemistry
  • Shapes, properties and reactions of molecules
  • Molecular pharmacology

Find out more about chemistry education in our chemistry education resources hub.


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