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Concepts in chemistry

This broad-based chemistry module covers key organic, inorganic, physical and analytical chemistry principles. It introduces sustainable and ‘green’ chemistry early on and develops this knowledge throughout ­– you’ll learn how chemists increasingly work to minimise detrimental environmental effects and constantly seek new ‘green’ ways of chemical manufacture. It also introduces the application of coding in chemistry using Python. A basic understanding of coding is an important skill for a chemist to acquire, which the module draws upon at several points.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
2 9 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

Topic 1: Foundations
You’ll spend the first two weeks revising chemistry covered in OU level 1 science modules, giving you a solid grounding in critical areas. The topic concludes with an interactive computer-marked assignment that provides invaluable feedback on your preparedness, identifying areas to revisit, if necessary.

Topic 2: Key concepts
Over these two weeks, you’ll look at chemistry fundamentals, key concepts around atomic and molecular structure and the skills you’ll develop as the module progresses. You’ll examine redox reactions and a redox titration to determine the concentration of vitamin C in fruit juice. One study session focuses on an introduction to sustainability and ‘green’ chemistry and chemists’ role in a sustainable world.

Topic 3: Periodicity (1)
During this one-week topic, you’ll examine the elements in the main group (s-block and p-block) and consider how their physical and chemical properties reflect their position in the Periodic Table. You’ll look closer at the role of hydrogen as a future fuel and potential hydrogen storage materials.

Topic 4: Periodicity (2)
This two-week topic focuses on the chemistry of the Periodic Table's d-block and f-block. You’ll look at the chemistry of complex formation, including uv-visible spectra and magnetic properties. The topic also contains an activity where you’ll investigate reclaiming rare-earth metals from electronic waste.

Topic 5: Organic molecules (1)
During this week, you’ll consider carbon-based (organic) molecules in detail, particularly how they form the building blocks of substances familiar in everyday life – drugs, foodstuffs and cleaning products. You’ll also look at chemical bonding in organic molecules and different types of isomerism.

Topic 6: Coding
This week’s study introduces coding in chemistry - the process of creating and ‘running’ a set of instructions to enable a computer to carry out a particular task. You’ll discover why a basic understanding of coding is an important skill for chemists. You’ll study further aspects of coding in subsequent topic blocks.

Topic 7: Thermodynamics
This three-week topic looks at why chemical reactions occur, focusing on energy (and entropy) changes. You’ll conduct two interactive on-screen investigations around energy changes, collaborating with fellow students during some aspects.

Topic 8: Kinetics
This topic tackles how fast chemical reactions proceed, how chemists measure rates of reactions and introduces the factors that affect reaction rate. There’s an interactive on-screen experiment on this topic.

Topic 9: Bonding and structure
The topic describes the formation of chemical bonds in molecules according to currently accepted theories. It also looks at the structure and chemistry of solids.

Topic 10: Organic molecules (2)
Here, you’ll take a closer look at functional groups in organic molecules. Using simple bonding models, you’ll consider how chemists synthesise chemical compounds.

Topics 11/12: Organic reactions/Making molecules
These topics focus on strategies for designing new molecules with potentially useful applications. You’ll develop skills in mechanism determination and how to apply this to any reaction by developing a series of rules. The topic ends with a chemistry in context section to show a real-world application of organic chemistry.

Topic 13: Spectroscopy
Finally, you’ll use the applications of several important spectroscopic techniques (UV-visible, IR, NMR and mass spectrometry) to characterise organic molecules and analyse unknown substances.

You will learn

The module aims to:

  • develop key chemistry knowledge and understanding
  • cultivate a holistic view of the subject across the traditional subdisciplines of inorganic, organic, physical, and analytical chemistry
  • provide familiarity with the principles and practical applications of sustainable chemistry in the context of critical societal challenges and current thinking on sustainable development within the chemical industry
  • provide the opportunity to critically analyse and interpret scientific information and data, and cultivate capability in problem-solving across all topics, integrating real-world case studies
  • integrate reflection on skills relevant to employability.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Laboratory schools

The School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences offers optional laboratory schools in Milton Keynes at an additional cost. Laboratory schools are not part of this module; however, they are compulsory if you’re studying towards one of the following chemistry qualifications:

If you’re not studying towards one of the above qualifications, the laboratory schools may be of interest if you wish to gain relevant hands-on laboratory experience.

Further information and instructions for booking are on the SS021 website.

Future availability

Concepts in chemistry (S218) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2031.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this module.

At The Open University, we believe education should be open to all, so we provide high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Even though there are no entry requirements, you’ll need an appropriate knowledge of biology obtained through:

  • OU level 1 study
  • equivalent work at another higher education institution.

Preparatory work

We recommend you’ve completed:


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2031.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 19/07/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of not more than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.

You’ll also have access to the OpenSTEM Labs, where you’ll conduct some of your experiments.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying S218 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.