At the start of the 21st Century both biochemistry and chemistry appeared well-placed to capitalize on the ‘century of biology’ and the exciting possibilities promised by ‘nanotechnology’. In addition, both appeared to be essential elements in understanding and monitoring environmental quality and its impact on human health, with major sectors within the UK economy critically dependent on the flow of highly trained personnel in these fields. The future, surely, looked rosy. However, in the last 6 months, three major UK university chemistry departments have been closed down, and over the last 5 years or so, the numbers of biochemistry departments returning separately under the National Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) has fallen dramatically. Here, we explore the background to these apparently incongruous developments and what they could portend for the future.

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