Engineering design: 'These graduates work on ground-breaking projects'

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The Independent Online

What are the entry requirements for this course?

Mathematics and physics at A-level (or equivalent) are generally high on the list.

Who applies?

Students who have broad engineering design interests, who are seriously ambitious and who would thrive running large engineering projects. Imagine being chief design engineer for a process plant, aeroplane, bridge, city, rural water supply or energy system; the possibilities are endless. Students will cover a broad range of issues to become graduates who can lead major engineering design teams.

A degree in engineering design gives you the experience to take a significant role in major design exercises and helps you to become one of the engineering leaders of the future.

What does the course involve?

Almost all specialised engineers will tell you that they are involved with engineering design. While design is undoubtedly a part of all disciplines, it cannot be said that all disciplines are solely focused on design.

Engineering design provides an overview of the engineering disciplines, including aerospace, mechanical, civil, computer science, electrical, electronic and mathematical engineering. It incorporates academic study, design methodology and industrial experience. It is aimed at the next generation of pioneers who, early in their careers, will assume key roles in ground-breaking projects including space technology, deep sea ocean mining and solving the problems presented by climate change.

A wide variety of teaching and learning methods are used, including lectures, tutorials, case studies, guided reading and student presentations. Students are expected to manage and develop their own studies and frequently make presentations to other students and staff. Much of the work is done in teams.

How would I be assessed?

Group design projects involving self- and peer-assessment are used, while further assessment is through presentations and written work.

How long does it last?

Anything from three to five years: the University of Bristol have a new MEng in engineering design which is a five-year programme including an industrial-placement year.

Are there opportunities available for further study?

Yes: there are various postgraduate degrees on offer.

What are the career options once the course is completed?

Students are eligible to proceed to chartered status and engineering institutional accreditation. Many graduates take up places with supporting companies or move to work with city consultancies.

In general, engineering design graduates have the potential to lead complex multidisciplinary projects and are able to appraise their own work and that of others. They will have a good grasp of the fundamentals of engineering and an understanding of the key concepts of the different disciplines, as well as a broad understanding of business, politics, economics and ethics and how they apply to the world of engineering.

Iain Mills, the department of engineering mathematics at the University of Bristol,

Laura Proctor, 22, is in her fourth year of an engineering design degree at the University of Bristol

"I really enjoyed maths and physics at A-level and wanted to continue studying at least some aspects of them at university. What drew me towards the engineering design degree was the opportunity to study different types of engineering before specialising.

There are laboratory sessions, a group project in the second year and various case studies that are often more hands-on than the lectures.

The third year is an industrial placement with distance learning modules, as well as reports and presentations, which are assessed.

I can see myself working for an engineering consultancy, in a water-engineering department. My ideal career would be focused on flood alleviation and prevention."

Alastair Wiles, 24, works for engineering consultancy firm Atkins

"I had great difficulty deciding what career I wanted to do when I finished at school. I needed a subject that would provide me with a range of transferable skills acceptable over different industries and jobs; engineering fitted this criteria.

I graduated in 2006 and have been a graduate engineer working for Atkins for just under a year. I joined with the specific purpose of gaining a broad range of experience over all aspects of power generation: oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewable. All of my work is involved with nuclear power generation.

I enjoy being faced with difficult challenges. I provide technical engineering support to British Energy, who own and run all the existing nuclear power station in the UK."


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