UK chemical engineering university applications rise again

Paul Boughton
New figures published yesterday by the Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) reported 13,520 applications to study chemical engineering compared to 12,061 last year. Whilst there was an overall 7 per cent decline in applications across all subjects, physics (+7 per cent) and mechanical engineering (+4 per cent ) both recorded improved figures. The news was less positive for chemistry (-0.4 per cent ) and civil engineering (-12 per cent ).

Since 2002 the number of student applications for chemical engineering has rocketed by 167 per cent from 5058 to 13520 this year. Student intake has also more than doubled with a record number of students currently studying the subject at university.

Chemical engineering is the best paid of the engineering disciplines with 2011 graduates earning a median starting salary of £28,000/y, making it the third highest paying degree course after medicine and dentistry.

IChemE communications manager Matt Stalker says: “It’s another record-breaking year for chemical engineering with more and more students identifying it as career choice that promises a wide range of career options and outstanding earning potential.

“It wasn’t so long ago that the number of student applications to study subjects like civil engineering or chemistry were three times that of chemical engineering but that gap is closing. There are a range of factors that have helped to fuel the interest in chemical engineering but we know that our whynotchemeng campaign has been key,” adds Stalker.

IChemE’s whynotchemeng campaign was launched in 2002 to tackle the shortage of students applying to study chemical engineering. The campaign helps young people find out more about studying chemical engineering at university and career opportunities on offer.  A survey of 2011 first-year chemical engineering students revealed that 1 in 4 had been positively influenced by the campaign.

Stalker says that while application figure increases are good news, further capacity at UK universities remains key: “It’s important that university course capacity grows hand-in-hand with this increased interest so new courses in places like Bradford, Hull and Westminster have been important, along with the continued expansion of established departments.”

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