Oxford Chemists pursue a four-year course, with the last year taken up by a full-time research project – a popular arrangement unique to Oxford for 100 years. For the first three years, the emphasis is on mainstream Chemistry, but with a breadth that leads to an appreciation of current developments over a very wide field, often crossing the boundaries with other subjects.
The first year
In the first year students take four subjects, covering the traditional areas of Inorganic, Organic and Physical chemistry together with Mathematics for Chemistry. The first three of these are very broadly based, and include topics such as Biological Chemistry and Physics, which are presented in a chemical context.
Students must pass the Preliminary Examination in all four subjects in June of the first year. The level of the examinations is set so that with reasonable commitment the vast majority of students do pass. For the few that fail there is an opportunity to resit in September.
The second year
In the second year students build up their core understanding of the subject. There are also optional, but well supported, supplementary subjects. These broaden the perspectives of students, or allow them to pursue their supplementary subjects further in the 4th year.
Students take Part IA examinations at the end of the second year, comprising three 2½ hour General papers. These cover material from the first and second years and count 15% to the final overall assessment.
Some Supplementary Subjects (optional)
Aromatic and Heterocyclic Pharmaceutical Chemistry
History and Philosophy of Science
A full list of supplementary subjects available in any particular year will be communicated to undergraduates in the final term of the previous year.
The third year
In the third year core topics continue to be covered together with three Options selected from a very wide choice (about 15).
Students take Part IB examinations at the end of the third year. These comprise six general papers and one options paper. In total these examinations count 50% towards the final classification.
The aim of the practical course is to ensure that students are able to perform a chemical investigation accurately, safely and efficiently, so that by the end of the course they are ready to work in a chemical research laboratory.
Experimental Chemistry is taught in rotation at each of the three main departments. The practical course teaches the essential experimental skills, from the synthesis and characterisation of compounds to the operation of spectrometers and other instruments for physicochemical measurements. It also makes tangible much that is covered in lectures and tutorials. The practical assessments count 10% towards the final classification.
There are also practicals concerning computer applications and chemistry software packages (such as structure drawing and molecular modelling) in the IT centre.
"All the practical classes observed by the assessors were judged to be of excellent quality. Teaching laboratories are well equipped with routine and advanced instrumentation, and clearly benefit from the high quality research environment. .....Safety in laboratories is afforded high priority". [HEFCE]