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UK welcomes record chemical engineering intake

publication date: Jan 25, 2010
author/source: Institution of Chemical Engineers

UCAS figures published yesterday show a record number of students have opted to study chemical engineering at UK universities this academic year with 2009 intake up by 11% on the previous year.  

1816 students enrolled on chemical engineering degree courses in the UK, marking the 8th consecutive year of growth. The chemical engineering increase doubled the overall intake rise of 5.5%. There are now a record number of students studying chemical engineering in the UK with intake up by 44% since 1999.  

David Brown, CEO of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) said: "Students are increasingly recognising the value of a chemical engineering degree and the doors it can open professionally. The biggest challenges going forward will be capacity and funding. Courses are hitting full capacity and without new investment, further growth will be limited. 

"If the UK is to remain competitive and meet future demand, it is essential that chemical engineering and related disciplines are protected from government cuts." 

The UK government has notified the funding council for England of extra cuts of £135m to universities in 2010-11, as well as the £600m announced in the pre-Budget report for 2011-13 and £263m of efficiency savings.  

Jonathan Seville, Dean of Engineering at Warwick University says that the turnaround in student interest is down to sheer hard work: "In the last few years we have seen a concerted effort by departments, IChemE and committed individuals to project the image of the subject as widely and as excitingly as possible. This has made the difference between simply recovering a little and the really strong recovery we are now seeing." 

Brown says part of the reason for the chemical engineering turnaround is the Institution's whynotchemeng campaign. Funded by IChemE, industry sponsors and university support, the campaign connects professional chemical engineers with local schools and colleges to promote the benefits of a career in the process industries to students. 

"Whynotchemeng gives students the chance to talk directly to chemical engineers about what they do on a day-to-day basis. The campaign also supports school science teachers and connects directly with students via the campaign website," says Brown. 

Whynotchemeng was shortlisted in the 2009 Chartered Institute of Public Relations Pride Awards and has been backed by former UK science and innovation Minister Lord David Sainsbury: "The campaign shows exactly what can be achieved when energetic young engineers and scientists fly the flag for their profession.

"The scientists and engineers of tomorrow will be responsible for finding solutions to many of the problems facing our planet. I passionately believe that the process industries have a key role to play in our transition to a more sustainable society."

Elsewhere, mechanical engineering (+12%), maths (+8%), physics (+7%) and electrical/electronic engineering (+5.3%) also enjoyed healthy rises.

About chemical engineers

Chemical, biochemical and process engineering is the application of science, maths and economics to the process of turning raw materials into everyday products. Professional chemical engineers design, construct and manage process operations all over the world.  Pharmaceuticals, food and drink, synthetic fibres and clean drinking water are just some of the products where chemical engineering plays a central role.

About IChemE

IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers) is the hub for chemical, biochemical and process engineering professionals worldwide. With a growing global membership of some 30,000, the Institution is at the heart of the process community, promoting competence and a commitment to best practice, advancing the discipline for the benefit of society, encouraging young people in science and engineering and supporting the professional development of its members.

For more information, visit 


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