40 years ago in Chemistry in Britain


Colin Eaborn from the University of Sussex, UK, proposed a new form of chemistry degree in 1970

It was very interesting to read Professor Eaborn’s proposals for an undergraduate chemistry course based substantially upon research work, as experience with chemistry projects for the Scottish Certificate of Sixth Form Studies over a period of three years has been wholly satisfactory with good pupil reaction.

The major problem with the introduction of investigational courses at school level has been that students coming through this type of course have found conventional courses at university rather uninteresting. To counteract this, the first-year chemistry course at the University of Glasgow contains short project work for those students who perform well in the introductory courses.

It is essential that project or research work is undertaken as a learning process for science in its wider aspects, since many chemistry undergraduates will not find employment as research chemists. 

However, project work, if properly organised, can be of great value in developing discussion between students leading to a team approach and a breaking of artificial barriers between the sections of chemistry.

A real barrier to research projects is the difficulty of obtaining an objective evaluation of performance - internally and externally. Perhaps a more conventional type of practical course, which is presented to the students as being investigational in character and is also open-ended, might have the advantages of both the old and the new.

Letter from D W A Sharp in  Chemistry in Britain, October 1970