Studying Chemistry at Hertford will almost certainly change your perception of the world around you, as you come to understand your surroundings at the molecular level. Chemical knowledge and processes are essential for sustaining our existence: from meeting our basic needs for food, shelter and clothing, to creating life-enriching solutions in fields such as energy, medicine and materials. At Hertford you will join a rich community of students and researchers working at the cutting edge of Chemistry.
Chemistry is often known as the “central science”, and has strong links to Physics, Biology, Mathematics, Medicine, Material Sciences and Environmental Sciences. A sound grasp of chemical principles provides the basis for solving a huge variety of problems in all of these fields. As a Chemistry student, you will be able to study a varied and intellectually stimulating syllabus, setting you up with the key skills for a successful career in any of a wide variety of sectors.
Chemistry at Oxford is offered as a 4-year integrated Master’s course. The first three years consist primarily of taught content, with exams at the end of each year. Core content is covered primarily in the first two years, and in the third year there is the opportunity to choose from a wide range of specialized options, taught by experts from across the University.
In your final year you will carry out an original research project in an area of your choice, joining a research team within the Department of Chemistry or a related department. The excellent research training provided, coupled with the opportunity to study a truly novel area of chemistry, leads to many of our students publishing work from their fourth year project in scientific journals.
Teaching and learning
Most of your contact teaching hours will be in the form of lectures and practicals held within the Department of Chemistry. This core material will provide you with a good overview of the important concepts to master. Lectures and practicals are attended by all students in your year group, giving you the opportunity to work with fellow Chemistry students from other colleges.
At Hertford, you will be taught in college tutorials. Here you will discuss topics in small groups, work through problems, and have the opportunity to stretch your understanding beyond the material covered in lectures. Your college tutors will work with you over the first three years of your degree, allowing you to build a strong and successful academic relationship with individual tutors.
Tutorials can make a real difference in helping you to tackle the additional thinking, reading and practice needed to master topics at a conceptual level. We will support you to develop the skills you need to apply your knowledge in practical situations, and will help you to consolidate your understanding by bringing the subject to life with examples from recent state-of-the-art research. Tutorials are an excellent opportunity for you to receive personalised help in solving tricky problems, as well as for you to have your ideas and understanding challenged both by your peers and by your tutor.
Hertford’s Chemistry tutors are here to follow your progress and support your learning throughout your degree. Through our small-group tutorial model, tutors become collaborators in your learning. We come to know how best to help you and when to provide sometimes much-needed encouragement to help you to achieve your potential.
We are proud of the excellent chemists who graduate from Hertford. Recent graduates have been highly numerate and excellent at solving problems – skills which appeal to a broad range of employers. Many of our former students go on to research careers and other careers in Chemistry and related sciences. However, a Chemistry degree can open doors into a huge number of different careers, some of which have surprisingly little to do with Chemistry.
Our graduates pursue careers in research and development, management consulting, administration, marketing, the financial sector, accountancy, and market analysis, often with major city firms and institutions. A significant minority enter positions in the computing and information technology industries, with others pursuing occupations ranging from scientific journalism to politics and careers in the Civil Service.
Immediately after leaving Hertford, a significant number of our graduates continue on to further study. Many pursue either a taught Master’s course or a doctoral degree (PhD or DPhil), with others undertaking graduate training programmes for medicine, law, patent work, or teaching.
Making an application
You can find the current entry requirements on the University website. If you think you have a reasonable chance of achieving these grades (or the equivalent qualification), then we strongly encourage you to apply, whatever your background.
The majority of applicants are invited to Oxford for interviews, which take place over two or three days in early to mid-December. Each interview will last between 20 and 30 minutes, and will be much like a tutorial discussion. We will normally work through a few chemical problems with you and see how well you can assimilate new information and develop new ideas. Some of the problems will be based on material you have already covered, while others have been specifically designed to introduce you to new material so that we can see how you respond to tutorial-style teaching. If you are asked a question you cannot answer, don’t panic – this will happen to everyone. If you get stuck, we will usually give you some tips to get you started, and you may well surprise yourself and find your way to the solution.
While a little nervousness is understandable, candidates are generally surprised at how much they enjoy their interviews. It is well worth remembering that we will be trying to get the best out of you in your interview, and we will therefore try as hard as we can to make sure you are feeling comfortable and relaxed.
There are two very effective things you can do to prepare for your interviews. Firstly, make sure that you’re up to speed on everything you have covered in relevant subjects at school, including Chemistry, Maths, and Physics and/or Biology if you are taking either or both of these subjects. Secondly, practise explaining Chemistry to anyone who will listen, including your friends or family members. School study groups in which you take it in turns to work through problems on a whiteboard or similar provide a good opportunity to do this. If your school doesn’t have such a group, start one! Practising with non-scientists can also be really helpful, as they are likely to ask unpredictable questions which you can then try to answer.