New chemistry programme will attract more students
KTH is to start a new Master of Engineering programme in order to attract more young people to study chemistry. The education is more clearly linked to employment market's needs and will take better care of the students on the programme. If everything goes according to plan, the new chemistry programme will start next year.
After several years with low application rates and low student throughput, the School of Chemistry has conducted a complete renovation of the engineering programme in chemical sciences.
“We disassembled the entire programme and started from scratch when we built the new one,” says Susanna Wold, responsible for first-level courses at the School of Chemistry.
According to Susanna Wold, the result has been a programme that offers students both a deeper and more diverse understanding of the subject area, and which offers a clearer link between the courses and, not least, is better suited to a dynamic employment market.
Future chemistry students at KTH can choose between three tracks: research, innovation and language. The research track is the traditional approach where students are trained to become specialists in the field of chemistry. Compared with the current chemistry programme, it will offer more in-depth studies, among other things; students will be able to study Masters courses a year earlier.
The innovation track leads to a broadening of skills and includes knowledge of economics, leadership and entrepreneurship. The language track provides special skills for an international employment market.
“There is a greater diversity in the employment market today that we must meet. Large companies still need specialised professionals, but the many new small businesses have other requirements. They often want generalists with complementary skills in technology, in other words, a kind of scientist with good social skills. Our educational programme will attempt to meet as many needs as possible,” says Susanna Wold.
The students’ social needs
Along with the other makers of educational programmes, she has designed a chemistry programme which also attaches great importance to students’ social needs. It centres around making the students feel motivated by their studies, through an understanding of the role the chemist plays.
All students study a so-called perspective course during the first two years of their education. In groups of 4-5 students, they participate in a research group at the department and solve realistic problems in the laboratory.
“They are real assignments which the research group faces in its ongoing research. The students gain an understanding of the complex issues they will face in the future, and how many different areas of knowledge the profession comprises. It should, among other things, motivate them to study mathematics and physics. Working with research groups also reduces the feeling of anonymity which could easily arise for new students,” says Susanna Wold.
“Very early on during the programme they meet with teachers and researchers in a natural context. From the student’s point of view, it helps to build up an identity. They get to work with a supervisor who caters to their needs and monitors their progress during the first two years.”
Susanna Wold says that the engineering courses in general are facing a paradigm shift, which means that they have to be more student-oriented than before.
“Students must understand the context of their education, and if they have no link with the employment market they lose interest and quit,” she says.
“In the new programme it becomes clear to the students what they need to know as a graduate engineer and what they will learn during the programme. We have made visible the relationship between the courses and we are connecting the theoretical and applied aspects of the courses in a more natural manner than in the past.”
New name liked by secondary school students
The name of the new educational programme is still not entirely finalised. Two options have been chiselled out after having tested them in the relevant target groups; they are “Technical chemistry with innovation and research” and “Molecular engineering with innovation and research”.
“In the spring, the names shall be further tested in studies with selected groups of secondary school students. The most important thing is that secondary school students become attracted by the name and that it is credible,” Susanna Wold emphasises.
“We need to be able to live up to the programme’s name when the new students have actually arrived.”
When all decisions have been taken, there remains intense promotional work to make the new educational programme known.
“If you already have a good reputation, then the marketing almost takes care of itself. But if you have fallen behind, as we have, it takes considerably more communicative efforts to come back. But I think and hope that we will soon be back again.”
The decision to launch the new chemistry programme will be taken by KTH’s board in June.
Text: Christer Gummeson