Chemistry with a Year Abroad (MChem)

This four-year MChem programme takes you to the heart of modern science and technology, embracing mathematics and physics on one hand, and medicine and the life sciences on the other.

Students in lab

This course provides a solid grounding across the whole subject of chemistry before focusing in depth on specific areas of interest, and culminates in a major research project, working with world-leading experts.

During the year abroad, you will continue with your academic work as well as undertaking an extended supervised research project as a junior member of a research group in the host institution, with the entire year being assessed as part of your degree.

We offer placements in partner institutions across the world, in Europe, North America, Africa and Australasia.

The programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and provides the opportunity not only to develop your knowledge and understanding to a higher level than is possible in a BSc degree, but also to gain experience of living and working overseas.

Key facts

UCAS CodeF102
Entry pointSeptember 2016
Duration4 years
AccreditationsRoyal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
Typical places availableThe School typically has around 170 places available
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives around 600 applications
Typical A level offerAAB including grade B in Chemistry. Ideally at least one other science or mathematical subject. General Studies and Critical Thinking are not accepted for entry. Also grade C or higher in GCSE Maths and English or Welsh (as appropriate).
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level (at the grades specified above), excluding Chemistry
Typical International Baccalaureate offer34 points to include 10 points in total from Higher Level Chemistry and another science or Mathematical subject. Chemistry is to be at least 5 points within this total.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Specific admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme can be found online.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark


Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Thomas Tatchell, Admissions Tutor

Important Legal Information: The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published by May 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.

The course structure is very flexible with all Cardiff's Chemistry degree programmes sharing a common first and second year. Transfer to the MChem Chemistry with a year in industry, or MChem Chemistry programmes is possible at the end of year one or two.

The four-year MChem Chemistry with a year abroad programme builds on the strong platform of the common first two years by exploring particular areas in greater detail in years three and four. This gives you an in-depth knowledge as a sound basis for research and further study in your chosen specialist field.

The programme has met the Royal Society of Chemistry requirements for accreditation. This means you can gain the title Chartered Chemist (CChem), when you have had the necessary further experience in a relevant job after graduation.

My ambition was to work in the Pharmaceutical industry; therefore as an undergraduate, I wanted to gain valuable professional experience that came with the application of science in a real working environment. This would give me an edge on other students when applying for jobs after graduation.

Tom Edwards, MChem with a Year in Industry

Year one

The first year ensures that you have a thorough basis for further study by consolidation and extension of previous experience in all aspects of the subject. There are five core chemistry modules based around the three principal areas of the subject, but also including coverage of key skills for chemists. These are complemented by a range of optional modules, which are reviewed and updated regularly. These allow you to exercise choice over your studies and extend your breadth of experience. Students may also take optional modules in other disciplines, such as Modern Languages, which is encouraged if you intend to spend year three in Europe.

Year two

The second year of the programme is where the main development of core material occurs. All modules are core and cover rigorously and in detail central material across all of the main areas of chemistry.

Year three: Sandwich year

You will spend your third year in a university abroad and thus have the opportunity to experience the working practices and culture of a different country. We have partner institutions in almost all European countries, as well as in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. The placement is organised by the School, dependent on your interests and strengths, and the School maintains close contact with you throughout your period away from Cardiff. A research project, supervised in the host institution, but assessed primarily in Cardiff, forms a significant part of the year away. In addition you will take three modules by 'distance learning', one each in inorganic, organic and physical chemistry, thus ensuring that you have covered the same core material as students who spend year three in Cardiff.

Year four

A substantial year-long research project in an area of your choosing provides the opportunity to develop and demonstrate the skills you have acquired, in the form of research at the forefront of knowledge. There are no compulsory theory modules at this level: you will be able to select optional modules to match your interests.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

The Cardiff School of Chemistry provides an outstanding and stimulating environment for chemical education. The undergraduate programmes reflect, and are fully embedded in, the research strengths of the School, with, for example, substantial final-year projects that are fully integrated into research groups. The degree programmes are designed to enable students to achieve their maximum potential by providing the required teaching, laboratory and other facilities, and pastoral care.

Teaching in Cardiff is undertaken through a series of lectures, tutorials, workshops and practical classes. Additionally, during the year abroad, you will study using course material provided remotely. All of these teaching methods are supported via our intranet system, Learning Central.


The major part of the teaching provided by the staff is through lectures, typically 10-12 lectures per week, each of 50 minutes duration. The subject matter is supported in various ways according to the nature of the topic, by slides, computer presentations, overhead transparencies, handouts and course summaries.

Laboratory work

The second major part of teaching consists of the practical classes, again typically averaging about 10-12 hours each week. In the first year, the emphasis is on basic techniques and simple but accurate recording of observations. These skills are taught by practical demonstrations and supported by a range of e-learning resources available free to all students and readily accessible. Self-tests allow you to gain an insight into a whole host of differing practical techniques, and to correct your mistakes, before actually attending the laboratory sessions. There are also electronic resources that help you to understand the theory and practical application of spectroscopic techniques. In later years, laboratory work progresses towards substantial experiments requiring careful planning, analysis and interpretation of results, and reporting to a professional standard. Practical work is integrated into each core module in the first two years, and this provides experience in all the main laboratory procedures and techniques across Chemistry. The training through the various years is designed progressively to extend your level of proficiency in practical chemistry, so that you are ready to undertake your independent research project at the end of your degree.

Information technology

Cardiff makes good use of information technology (IT) in its Chemistry degree programmes. Undergraduates are taught how to use the latest software and molecular modelling packages and it is expected that in the later years all submitted work should be professionally presented. Facilities to enable this are provided in the form of well-equipped computer suites.

Small-group teaching

Tutorial classes in small groups are given in all years spent in Cardiff to allow practice in the material presented in lectures, discussion and analysis of the lecture material, as well as the development of communication skills. These sessions are delivered by three allocated staff members, one specialist in each of the areas of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry. The same three tutors will generally remain assigned to each group throughout your degree. One of these tutors will also be designated as your personal tutor, and with all staff operating an open door policy, students can always approach staff with any problems that they may have academic or otherwise.

Research project

All chemistry degree programmes in Cardiff have a major element of independent, supervised research. In the MChem Chemistry with a year abroad programme, students undertake two research projects. One is conducted during the year abroad, and the second takes the form of a 60 credit module in the fourth year, occupying about two days each week of both semesters. It includes planning, carrying out experimental work, analysis of results and reporting in a thesis. You will work under the guidance of an internationally recognised expert in the field, and present the results of your work both orally and in writing. This has in the past occasionally led to undergraduate students being co-authors of published papers.

As a graduate chemist, you can expect a wide range of career options. Many of our graduates join the chemical industry, while others enter academic or government establishments. Some use the logical and practical training of a chemistry degree to enter marketing, sales, management or finance. Further possibilities are in scientific journalism and publishing. Others become teachers or use their skills in environmental conservation, clinical and forensic laboratories and in quality control throughout the manufacturing industry.

In 2013, 94% of the School's graduates were in employment or further study within six months of graduation. Employers of MChem graduates included: CapGemini Consulting, Johnson Matthey, Akzo Nobel and Vectura. Career Destinations included: research scientist, technologist, associate consultant, and PhD researcher.


4 Year(s)

Next intake

September 2016

Places available

Typical places available

There are typically 160 students admitted to undergraduate degrees in Chemistry each year.

Applications received

Typical applications received

500-600 applications for undergraduate degree programmes in Chemistry are received each year.


QAA subject benchmark

QAA subject benchmark


Overview and aims of this course/programme

The MChem programme is designed for students wishing to acquire a detailed knowledge and understanding of the subject, and the skills needed to pursue a career in chemistry, either in an academic or industrial environment, at a professional level.  It is a 4-year programme, and incorporates a major research project worth 60 credits in the final year.  Students spend Year 3 in a research laboratory in a university or other institution overseas .

What should I know about year five?

Students are required to achieve an overall average mark of 55% or above in each of the first two years of study.  Failure to do so will result in transfer to the BSc Chemistry programme.

Attendance at tutorials and practical classes is compulsory and will be monitored.  Students who are absent through illness, or other good reason, are required to inform the School Office of the circumstances on their return (a form is available for this purpose).  Unjustified absence for two successive tutorials or practical sessions will lead to receipt of an e-mail from the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and continued lack of attendance may result in eventual exclusion.

Each 20 credit module is expected to correspond to 200 hours of study.  A substantial proportion of this time should be spent in independent study.  For example, in Year 1 most 20 credit modules consist of 33 hours of lectures, 30 hours of laboratory classes, 2 hours of workshops and 4 hours of tutorials, amounting to 69 contact hours in total.  The remaining time should be spent on background reading, making notes, completing assignments, etc.

Students are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study.

How is this course/programme structured?

This is a four-year programme.  Most compulsory modules are worth 20 credits, and run over the whole academic year.  Optional modules are usually worth 10 credits and last a single semester.  

In Year 1 students take compulsory modules in Chemistry worth 90 credits, and optional modules worth 30 credits which may be in Chemistry or any other subject.  Students without A-level Mathematics must take CH2116 Mathematical Methods as one of their options; similarly students without A-level Biology must take CH3113 Chemical Biology as one of their options.

Year 2 consists only of compulsory modules in Chemistry.  Modules in Years 1 and 2 generally incorporate both lectures and practical work.

In Year 3 students study a compulsory theory module in each branch of the subject (inorganic, organic, physical) by distance learning, whilst undertaking their placement overseas.

Students undertake a major research project (worth 60 credits) in Year 4.  All other modules are optional, so that students may tailor the programme to match their interests.

What should I know about year four?

Students do not need to provide any special equipment themselves.  The University will provide them at enrolment with a lab coat, a pair of safety glasses, a laboratory notebook and a molecular modelling kit.  Chemical drawing software (ChemDraw) is available on all university computers, and students will be able to download it to their own computers free-of-charge.

What should I know about year three?

Graduates from this programme will acquire or enhance the following transferable skills (not all of which will be formally assessed):

  • Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication.
  • Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information, extending to situations where evaluations have to be made on the basis of limited knowledge or current understanding in a research active field.
  • Numeracy and computational skills, including error analysis, order-of-magnitude estimations, correct use of units and modes of data presentation, both electronically and in current research journals.
  • Information-retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources, including methods based on on-line computer searches using chemical databases and search engines as well as the use of library journals and abstract facilities.
  • Information-technology skills such as word-processing and spreadsheet use, data-logging and storage, Internet communication, electronic presentations and the use of chemical drawing packages.
  • Interpersonal skills, relating to the ability to interact with other people and to engage in team-working.
  • Time-management and organisational skills, as evidenced by the ability to plan and implement efficient and effective modes of working towards a strategic goal relevant to current chemical understanding and/or industrial targets.
  • Study skills needed for continuing development as a professional chemist.

In each of Years 1 and 2, students will take compulsory “key skills” modules, during which they will learn and practise some or all of these skills.  They will also receive training in CV writing, completion of application forms, and interviewing techniques, delivered in collaboration with the Careers Service.

What should I know about the preliminary year?

A major part of the programme is delivered through lectures, typically 10-12 lectures weekly in the first three years of study, each of 50 minutes duration.  These are supported in various ways, according to the nature of the topic, by slides, computer presentations, overhead transparencies, handouts and course summaries, some of which are provided on paper and some electronically through the virtual learning environment.

The second major part of teaching consists of the practical classes, again typically averaging about 10-12 hours each week in the first three years of study. In the first two years, some practical work is associated with most core modules, and this provides experience in all the main laboratory procedures and techniques across chemistry.  In Year 4 of the programme students undertake a year-long research project under the supervision, and in the research laboratory of a member of academic staff.  The student is expected to devote approximately 20 hours per week to laboratory work associated with the project. The practical classes follow a defined sequence, which begins with basic techniques, and progresses towards substantial experiments requiring planning, analysis and interpretation of results, and reporting to a professional standard. The training through the four years is designed to extend each student steadily, from being a new student to being a practising professional chemist.

Tutorial classes in small groups (typically of 6 students) are given each week in Years 1 and 2. This is to allow practice, discussion and analysis of the material presented in lectures, and to provide opportunity for developing key skills of communication.

Students spend much of the year away in activities related to their research project, but in addition they will study some modules remotely. These will involve regular work directed by the appropriate tutor, and will include the study of course material made available electronically, and through literature, submission of regular assignments for marking, and a final examination in Cardiff in August.

The final form of teaching is through workshops. These take various forms in different parts of the curriculum, but are essentially classes to develop skills, both chemically-related skills practising the use of important principles, and key skills in communication, presentation and debate. Workshops are attached to many of the modules throughout the four years, and they are particularly significant in modules designed to promote critical analysis, judgement and skills of oral presentation and argument.

What should I know about year one?

Formative and summative assessments are carried out throughout each year of study. The purpose of these is to provide a measure of performance to inform students, staff and future employers about progress and achievement, but also to assist with the learning process by highlighting areas of success and areas needing more attention. The assessment procedures for the MChem programme involve a range of methods, as detailed below, and are selected to match the assessment to the particular outcomes of each module and the programme as a whole.

  • Formal examinations with fixed time-limits
  • Class tests
  • Reports on laboratory work
  • Planning, conduct and reporting of project work
  • Essays
  • Problem-solving exercises (as workshop assignments)
  • Oral presentations
  • Preparation and display of posters

Some of these activities involve group working, providing an opportunity to judge performance as a group member.

Other information

Every student will have three academic tutors, one of whom will also act as Personal Tutor, and will see one of his/her tutors every week, either as part of a small tutorial group, or on a one-to-one basis in a personal tutorial.  Personal Development Planning will be based around maintenance of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Undergraduate Skills Record, and will be discussed in personal tutorials.

During the year abroad a member of academic staff (usually the Personal Tutor) will be appointed as the student's mentor, and he/she will maintain regular contact with the student throughout the year.  This will include a visit to the host institution, where possible.

Students will be provided with a printed copy of a comprehensive handbook appropriate to their year of study, which contains details of all the School’s procedures and policies.

Extensive use will be made of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (Learning Central) for the dissemination of information.  In particular, marks for in-course assessment will be available via Learning Central within three weeks of the deadline for submission.

Distinctive features

Graduates from this programme will be will become conversant with the following main aspects of chemistry:

  • Chemical terminology, nomenclature, conventions and units.
  • The structural features of chemical elements, their compounds and supramolecular systems, including stereochemical features and conformational analysis, with the ability to predict the structure and geometry of unfamiliar species.
  • The characteristic physical properties and chemical behaviour of elements and compounds, including group relationships and trends within the Periodic Table.
  • The principles and procedures used in chemical analysis and the characterisation of new chemical compounds relevant to research activities.
  • The practical application of atomic and molecular spectroscopy and the interpretation of spectra on the basis of an understanding of the theory of the techniques and the properties of atoms, molecules and states of matter.
  • The properties of the different states of matter and an understanding of the origin of these properties from fundamental theory of solids.
  • The relation between bulk properties and the properties of individual atoms, molecules and functional groups, including macromolecules and biomolecules.
  • The role of energy changes in chemical systems, including knowledge of the laws of thermodynamics and the ability to use quantitative methods to account for energy changes in chemical systems. This includes the statistical basis of thermodynamics and its use in describing phase properties and reaction kinetics.
  • The factors that affect the rate of chemical change and the way in which they are influenced by experimental parameters, including quantitative explanations for the influence of these factors using kinetic theory and the application of mechanistic understanding to explain the course of chemical reactions.
  • The principles of quantum mechanics and their application to the description of the structure, spectroscopy and properties of atoms and molecules
  • An appreciation of the nature, and the underlying principles, of bonding with understanding of valence bond theory, symmetry and MO theory applied to compounds of the p-block and transition metal complexes.
  • The major types of chemical reaction and the main characteristics associated with their mechanisms.
  • The nature and properties of organometallic and co-ordination compounds, and of aggregates of metal centres, and theories to explain these.
  • The properties and reactions of aliphatic, aromatic, heterocyclic, biological and pharmaceutical products and the role of organometallic compounds in synthesis, catalysis and biology.
  • Major synthetic pathways in organic chemistry and biochemistry, involving functional group interconversions, rearrangement reactions and carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom bond formation, and the retrosynthetic approach to their analysis.
  • The structures and chemical reactivity of the principal classes of biomolecule.
  • Familiarity with the use of information technology for the solution of chemical problems.
  • Understanding and awareness of major issues at the frontiers of chemical research.
  • Mathematical knowledge in basic algebra and calculus and numerical manipulation appropriate for the analysis and evaluation of current chemical problems.

Graduates from this programme will be able to:

  • demonstrate systematic knowledge and a critical comprehensive understanding of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to the subject areas identified above.
  • apply such knowledge and understanding to the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems of a familiar and unfamiliar nature.
  • recognise and analyse novel problems and strategies, criticise techniques applicable to their own advanced scholarship, and plan strategies for their solution.
  • use conceptual understanding to evaluate current research and advanced scholarship, develop critiques and, where appropriate, propose new approaches.
  • display originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline.
  • evaluate, interpret, manipulate and synthesise chemical information and data.
  • recognise and implement good measurement science and practice across a wide range of chemistry.
  • appreciate the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of current knowledge.
  • present scientific material and arguments clearly and correctly, in writing and orally, to a range of audiences including peer-reviewed chemistry journals, research seminars and colloquia.
  • demonstrate computational, data-processing and electronic searching skills, relating to chemical information, data and literature.
  • handle chemical materials safely, review physical and chemical properties and make risk assessments for new experimental procedures, define specific hazards associated with the use of chemical substances.
  • carry out laboratory procedures for preparation, purification and analysis of a wide range of substances (including previously unseen situations) and a number of advanced research techniques.
  • operate standard and advanced chemical instruments, such as those used for structural investigation and separation.
  • monitor chemical properties or changes, by observation and measurement, and record, in a systematic and reliable fashion, documentation relating to these events in a manner appropriate for a professional chemist working in an academic or industrial situation.
  • research, review, plan, design and execute practical investigations, select appropriate procedures from literature and knowledge, and proceed from the problem-recognition stage through to the evaluation and critical appraisal of results with subsequent suggestion of approaches to address shortfalls in current findings.
  • interpret data derived from laboratory observations and measurements in terms of their current significance and the theory underlying them, to assess their significance and place in context.

How will I be taught?

Students who wish to transfer to the 3-year BSc Chemistry programme may do so at any point prior to the start of Year 3.  Students who are interested in a placement abroad need to register their interest by the start of Year 2.  Advice and guidance in applying is given throughout that year.  Placements overseas are available in most European countries under the aegis of the ERASMUS programme, and also in Australia, Canada and the USA. 

There are also usually opportunities for several students to undertake summer research projects in Cardiff, under the supervision of a member of academic staff.

Admissions tutors

Dr Thomas Tatchell, Admissions Tutor

Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.


Get information and advice about making an application, find out when the key dates are and learn more about our admissions criteria.

How to apply
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