The fourth year (Part II of the course) is spent exclusively on research, providing you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in a significant project, in one of the world’s premier research schools.
A wide choice of research projects is available in both pure and applied Chemistry, and also in related sciences. You would be supervised by a senior member of the academic staff and have full access to the research facilities of your host laboratory.
A high proportion of students decide on a research career as a result of the excitement they experience and the commitment they acquire working in an active, front line research group. The year’s work results in a thesis, the assessment of which is weighted 25% in the final determination of the class of M.Chem. honours degree.
Much of this research is published in scientific journals. Besides contributing to the pool of scientific knowledge, the Part II year provides a unique experience of the world of research and, very importantly, allows you to make an informed decision as to whether to continue in research, by proceeding to a doctorate. Otherwise, you might learn that a career in industrial research would suit you better, or perhaps that, much as you enjoy Chemistry, you are not really cut out for research, but that your talents lie elsewhere. There is time to reflect and plan your career without the distraction of impending examinations.
The experience gained, together with the extra maturity and enhanced self-confidence acquired during the Part II year, are much valued by employers, both in the chemical industry and outside science for example in the business sector. The major lessons and transferable skills learned have universal application, and make Oxford Chemistry graduates very attractive to employers. Students also enjoy the fourth year greatly. It is very rare for a student to exercise the option of leaving after three years with an (unclassified) B.A. honours degree.
"the highly distinctive fourth year is seen as a particularly rich developmental experience for the student" [HEFCE]