What is Chemistry?
Chemistry is a wide-ranging science concerned with matter at the atomic and molecular scale. Important facets are synthesis, structure, microscopic mechanisms, properties, analysis and transformations of all types of materials.
Chemists are a constant source of innovation: it is hard to imagine any product introduced in recent times that did not require the creative efforts of a chemist. Chemistry underpins the conceptual framework and methodology of biochemistry and molecular medicine, and is at the heart of many major industries.
A good Chemistry degree opens the door to a wide and varied range of careers.
Chemistry at Oxford
Teaching and research are closely linked: Oxford is one of the leading chemistry departments in the world with a state of the art lab, and international-level research in a wide range of areas, including synthesis and catalysis, medicinal and biological chemistry, sustainable energy, advanced materials, innovative measurement and theoretical and computational chemistry.
The department has an unrivalled track record in commercialising the innovative work of research staff, which has raised millions of pounds for the University.
The MChem is a four year course, and is not modular, enabling us to explore the links within the subject. The core material is taken by all students, with opportunities to specialise later in the course. The fourth year (Part II) is devoted exclusively to research – a distinctive feature of Chemistry at Oxford since 1916.
Chemistry provides an excellent opportunity for the development of your critical faculties and intellect, and also instils important transferable skills that will serve you well whatever your subsequent choice of career. About 55% of our Chemistry graduates go on to do research or further study. Others enter professions such as publishing and marketing, banking and finance, manufacturing, IT, law and teaching.
Long term, more than half our graduates remain in posts related to Chemistry in some way. The Royal Society of Chemistry provides further information about careers using chemistry at www.rsc.org.
- About 10 lectures, at 9 and 10am
- 1 or 2 tutorials in your college with set work to be completed in your own time
- 2 afternoons of laboratory work (11am to 5pm)
- A problems class, eg a maths class in the first year
The course is challenging but there is plenty of time for extra-curricular pursuits.
Year 4: Extended terms
There are three terms in the Oxford academic year, each eight weeks long. Students usually arrive a week early in the first term of their first year for welcome and induction activities. In the final year of the Chemistry course, students undertake full-time research under the supervision of a member of the academic staff. This final year has three extended terms of 12 to 13 weeks and is 38 weeks in total. This final year, which is entirely devoted to research, is a unique feature of the Oxford course, and will give you research skills that are highly valued by both academics and employers.
Work placements/international opportunities
Part II (the fourth year) involves full-time work with an established research group. There is the possibility of a few students spending time at laboratories in industry or at universities abroad. Many students find work placements during vacations, the careers service helps with this, and there are some opportunities within the department.
Four courses are taken:
First University examinations:
Core material, including courses on:
Optional supplementary subject course
Part IA examinations:
Further core material, plus advanced courses with a choice from among a variety of options
Part IB examinations:
Full-time research under the supervision of a member of the academic staff
Part II examination: Dissertation; oral examination; determination of the class of honours degree
The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.
- A-levels: A*A*A (including Chemistry and Mathematics) with both A*s in science subjects and/or Mathematics
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB (including Chemistry and Mathematics)
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 7 in HL Chemistry and EITHER 6/7 in HL Mathematics OR 7 in SL Mathematics plus a second science at HL
- Or any other equivalent (see details of international qualifications)
Candidates are required to have Chemistry and Mathematics to A-level, Advanced Higher, or Higher Level in the IB or any other equivalent. In IB, Mathematics 7 at SL is also acceptable. Another science or Further Mathematics may be useful for some elements of the course, but are not essential.
Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)
These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2016.
Total annual fees
& Isle of Man)
Despite what you may have heard, it's no more expensive to study at Oxford than at any other university. In fact, our world-class resources and college provision can help you to lower your living costs.
Living costs for 2016/17 are estimated to be between £970 and £1,433 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.
A full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.
In 2016 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government grants and loans. See further details.
Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.
Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:
Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support page.
*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding
Additional Fees and Charges Information for Chemistry
Students in their fourth year undertake full-time research under the supervision of a member of the academic staff. This final year has three extended terms of 12 to 13 weeks and is 38 weeks in total, so you will need to budget for higher living costs in the final year, as you will be required to be in Oxford for longer than the standard terms. This final year, which is entirely devoted to research, is a unique feature of the Oxford course, and will give you research skills that are highly valued by both academics and employers.
All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.
You do not need to submit any written work when you apply for this course.
All candidates must take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), normally at their own school or college, on 2 November 2016. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2016. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure they are registered for this test. See www.tsaoxford.org.uk for further details.
What are tutors looking for?
The tutors will be looking for evidence of motivation and potential for advanced study; they will seek to evaluate your capacity to analyse and use information to develop your own understanding, and your willingness to discuss concepts.
Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for Chemistry.
Introductory reading for Chemistry.
Joe Marshall, 3rd year
Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.
Abigail, 2nd year
'We study organic, inorganic and physical chemistry as well as maths. The topics we study range from quantum mechanics, to the applications of superconductors, to biochemical warfare and drug targets.
The department is one of the best in the world, with many top research chemists. It’s amazing how often we have lectures or tutorials given by the authors of the textbooks we use! '
Nick, who graduated in 2009
He is now an educational consultant. He says:
‘Since graduating I have started a company called Explosive Science with a friend from college. We perform chemistry demonstrations in schools, aiming to enthuse children about science.’
Nessa, Chemistry, who graduated in 2009
I wish they'd told me when I was applying to university...
'I think most of the things I was better learning myself. But I had no idea that the culture shock of moving down from the north would be so enormous. It was clear when I first got here that people didn't have the same social norms, and it was disconcerting at first. Now I realise that they're the same people inside and they are just as friendly; they just do things a bit differently...
The best thing that Oxford did for me:
'Actually, the best things came from the other students - when I joined the committee of the Scientific Society, I wasn't sure that I would ever know as much as the older students about the scientific community across all fields in the UK. Over the past two years, I've been able to meet and talk at length with some of the best-known scientists in the UK and beyond, including invaluable contacts in my own field who I've kept in contact with ever since.'
My favourite Oxford memory is...
'Being a part of the Scientific Society was the best thing for me. When I was President, the team and I organised a debate that drew a crowd of 650 people - an incredible thing to be involved with. You just couldn't get that anywhere else - even the most talented speakers are drawn to the Oxford name. SciSoc is now Oxford Uni's most Facebook-popular society!'
The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.
Oxford’s tutorial system
Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.
A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.
Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.
The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.
The benefits of the college system
- Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
- Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
- Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.
It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.