Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Chemistry

Why choose Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We’re ranked 7th in the UK for chemistry in the Complete University Guide 2018.

  • All our chemistry programmes are accredited by The Royal Society of Chemistry, and our chemical physics programmes are accredited by both The Royal Society of Chemistry and The Institute of Physics.

  • You will have the opportunity to take a year-long research placement at a university in Asia, Europe or the US or a year-long industrial research placement, if you are studying an MChem or MChemPhys.

  • You will complete a year-long research project in your final year if you are studying an MChem or MChemPhys programme.

  • You will have the opportunity to combine the study of chemistry with a wide range of other disciplines in Years 1 and 2.

Study abroad

I really like the sense of community in the School of Chemistry. Staff are approachable and make a conscious effort to help in any way they can, contributing to the first-class learning experience.

Ben Arenas MChem (Hons) Chemistry graduate
Ben Arenas MChem (Hons) Chemistry graduate

Chemistry is the study of atoms, molecules and ions - their physical and chemical properties, their composition and structure, and their role and uses in every aspect of our lives.

Our programmes retain a broad perspective, preparing you for a range of potential careers in chemistry, or science more generally. All our programmes include practical aspects to develop your analytical, problem-solving and numeracy skills. Small-group workshops, tutorials and presentations will improve your communication and presentation skills, making you attractive to employers in many areas of industry and commerce.

The School of Chemistry has an enthusiastic and committed staff team that provides a supportive learning environment and a flexible approach to study.

All our programmes include training, practice, and feedback in communication skills, team working, and exposure to the latest technology of scientific information retrieval and organisation.

Teaching is carried out in a highly active research environment which has strong connections with the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Our chemistry courses include extensive experimental work carried out in modern laboratories. The proportion of your time spent at the bench increases as your programme progresses and will culminate in an extended research project in your final year.

The high quality of research activity in the EaStCHEM research school (rated in the top 4 in the UK in the 2014 Research Assessment Exercise) enables us to offer project work at the cutting edge of the subject across virtually all major areas of chemistry.


All our chemistry programmes are accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry. Our chemical physics programmes are also accredited by both the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics.

Personal tutors

Every undergraduate student has a Personal Tutor, a member of the School of Chemistry teaching staff who provides academic guidance and support.

Personal tutors

Year 1

You will spend approximately a third of your first year in chemistry lectures, laboratory classes and small-group tutorials. For all students a mathematics course is also required. The remainder of your curriculum can be chosen from a broad range of courses from across the University.

Year 2

You continue with your chemistry course, which again takes up about a third of your time. Additional courses such as Environmental Chemistry, Materials Chemistry, Chemical Pharmacology or courses in physics or mathematics may be required or recommended for your specific programme but most programmes still allow considerable choice of option subjects at this stage.

The range of option courses available over the first two years allows real flexibility to maintain options to transfer between different programmes within the College of Science & Engineering.

Year 3

You will study compulsory chemistry courses that provide a foundation for the remaining honours years. If you are studying the Chemical Physics programme you will take a combination of chemistry and physics courses.

Year 4

In the final year of your BSc, or the penultimate year of your MChem or MChemPhys, you will take compulsory courses from your programme and will choose from a range of other advanced chemistry courses. Students on the BSc programmes will have a choice between a final-year research project or a science education placement with a local school, the latter providing ideal preparation for future study towards a teaching qualification.

Students on the MChem/MChemPhys programmes will take a research training course in preparation for their final year project.

Year 5

(MChem and MChemPhys only)

You will undertake a full-year research project. You will have the choice between remaining in Edinburgh to work on projects supervised by a staff member in chemistry (or physics for chemical physics students), or seeking to secure a place to undertake your project while on placement in industry, a government research institute, or in the chemistry department of one of our exchange partner universities around the world.

Typically more than 50 per cent of students will follow one of these placement options.

Are there additional costs?

You will require a white lab coat which cost £15 in 2017. You must also purchase three core textbooks in Year 1, which cost £120 in 2017.

While you are on placement you may incur travel costs. However, most students on industrial placement will receive a salary or stipend from their host company.

Our facilities

In modern teaching and research laboratories. In first year your lectures take place in the Central Area and thereafter all teaching and laboratory work is at the University's King's Buildings campus.


A year-long placement in industry, either in the UK or overseas, or with one of our partner chemistry departments at a range of universities overseas, can be included as part of our MChem or MChemPhys programmes. These placements will form the final year of your programme and will be comprised entirely of research project work.

Those students who do not undertake one of these options will complete a final year research project in Edinburgh occupying the full year.

Those students on a BSc (Hons) programme have the option of undertaking a science education placement in a local high school in place of the final year research project. This provides valuable experience for students who wish to pursue a career as a teacher.

Study abroad

Overseas study in Europe, North America or Asia can be included as part of our MChem or MChemPhys programmes. This would form the final year of your programme and includes significant research project work.

Opportunities for study abroad currently include most European countries, the United States of America and several countries in Asia. Students hoping to study in Europe may need to select an appropriate language course as an option in Year 1 or 2, for which a secondary/senior school-level language qualification is desirable.

Some European placements may not be possible for Medicinal & Biological Chemistry or Chemical Physics.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, laboratory classes, workshops and small-group tutorials.

In your first two years you will undertake 20 hours per week of timetabled study. Normally an additional 15 to 20 hours is dedicated to preparing for tutorials, writing lab reports or private study. Later years include more practical learning and research project work.

Acquisition of knowledge and understanding is achieved mainly through lectures, laboratory classes, tutorials/workshops and project work. Lectures are assessed via formal 'unseen' examinations.

In all courses understanding is reinforced by small group tutorials and/or by problem solving workshops.

Written communication, report writing and IT skills are developed via laboratory reports, posters, essays and project reports.

Oral presentation skills are acquired via formal presentations.

Practical skills and an awareness of the safety aspects of laboratory work and risk-assessment are developed progressively over the first four years of the course and through a substantial research project in the final year conducted either in an academic or industrial context.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework, reports on laboratory practicals, presentations, exams and performance and reporting on your final year research project.

Our graduates are highly regarded by national and international employers.

Many graduates move into careers in the oil, chemical or pharmaceutical industries, in sales and marketing or research and development roles.

Many graduates choose further study, leading to an MSc, PhD or teaching qualification.

Your programme also prepares you for a variety of other careers, including areas such as management, finance or IT.