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Why study engineering in the UK?
‘Be it in aerospace, automotive or any other field of engineering, the UK possesses world-class capability in advanced engineering. UK-based companies are prominent in a wide range of areas, including design engineering, advanced materials and manufacturing, and are renowned for their innovation and commitment to research and development.’ (UKTI)
UK schools, colleges and universities are at the cutting edge of global developments in engineering, and are the ideal place to start your career. This is proven in high recruitment rates for engineering and technology graduates from UK universities. If you want to make a real impact on infrastructure and environmental projects – in any sector, anywhere in the world – the UK is the place to be.
Did you know…
- Students in the UK are given unique opportunities to learn from professionals and make industry connections. The UK ranks second in the world for collaboration between universities and businesses (BIS).
- Many UK students contribute to research projects that have a direct impact on work around the world. The UK government invests heavily in research across all fields – the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council gives more than £850 million to new projects every year, for example, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council gives £500 million a year.
- The automotive sector is one of the UK’s biggest, with 18 of the world’s top 20 automotive suppliers. UK universities and automotive research centres attracted a total investment of £1.7bn in 2012 (UKTI).
- The UK is renowned for aerospace engineering, with the largest base of small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe (UKTI).
- The UK ranks fourth in the world for academic excellence in materials science, research and development, and universities here have a global reputation in plastics and advanced composite materials (UKTI).
- Businesses and universities in the UK are pioneering research in ‘green’ engineering. The UK is the world’s biggest producer of offshore wind energy, and other renewable energy sectors are growing rapidly (DECC). Meanwhile, the UK’s automotive sector is a leading developer of low-carbon technology.
- Interested in space? The UK's space industry is growing quickly, as its strengths in software design and systems integration link with new ideas from academics and scientific researchers (UKTI).
- UK schools, colleges and universities come together for unique events such as National Science & Engineering Week, to encourage engineering education at all levels (click here for details).
- There is an emphasis on equality and diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects in the UK. Read more in Women and engineering: UK and the World.
Courses and qualifications
The range of engineering courses in the UK is very broad, across the different levels of education and different areas of engineering.
At school and further education level, you could study engineering as a GCSE, AS or A-level. There are also many Foundation Degree courses designed to give you skills for the workplace, or you can take a BTEC National Diploma or Certificate foundation qualification. For many students, this is the first step toward a professional engineering qualification.
In higher education, most students choose to specialise in a field such as aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, structural engineering, marine or biomedical engineering. You will also find courses in music technology, sound engineering, metals technology, motor vehicle technology and industrial design.
There are also engineering courses that include interdisciplinary research – if you’re interested in medical science, for example, you might take part in research on diagnostics and surgical solutions.
Most undergraduate engineering degree programmes are three-year courses leading to a Bachelor’s degree (BEng or BSc). At postgraduate level, you can then go on to a Master’s degree (MEng or MSc), or study for a PhD or EngD – this is an industry-based doctorate, combining high-level academic research with practical training.
Many students choose to extend their course by a year to do a work placement – this is where you spend time working for a company as part of your course. Check that your visa status allows this.
Many UK engineering degrees are accredited by the Engineering Council UK (ECUK) and give graduates Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng) status.
Click here to read more about qualifications for students aged 16 and under
Click here to read more about further education qualifications
Click here to read more about higher education qualifications
To study engineering at undergraduate level, most courses expect you to have studied a relevant subject at school or further education level – many require you to have studied mathematics, but other supporting subjects are physics, computing, electronics, technology or science subjects.
There are also engineering courses with an emphasis on design – such as automotive or technology design – which might require an art or design qualification. Similarly, for audio or music technology, you might need to show that you have practical music experience.
If you lack the qualifications or academic experience required for a university course, there are many undergraduate programmes which include a ‘foundation year’ – a one-year foundation course designed to teach the skills required for the full programme. Ask your chosen institution for details, or click here to browse courses.
If English isn’t your first language, most courses will also ask for evidence of your English language skills, such as an IELTS or equivalent qualification.
All schools, colleges and universities have different entry requirements, so make sure you read the course details thoroughly and ask your chosen institution directly if you have any questions.
UK engineering courses have close links to industry, and many UK universities even run their own manufacturing groups as commercial enterprises. At higher education level, engineering students often gain experience in a professional environment as part of the degree course. This is a great way to boost your CV (check your visa status allows this).
Six months after graduating, most UK engineering graduates are working in a role related to their degree, and the proportion of those in employment is higher than in other subjects. Demand for engineering graduates is expected to increase (HECSU).
Roles include mechanical engineer, design and development engineer, production and process engineer, technician and civil engineer. There are also many opportunities for electrical and electronic engineering graduates, who might go on to work in software development and programming, web design and development, IT business analysis, systems design or architecture.
Equally, an engineering qualification might lead you into a completely different field, such as sales or finance! With a UK engineering qualification you’ll be able to show that you’re both analytical and creative, hard-working and able to think independently – qualities that are valued by employers in many different industries.
Go to Entering a career for more career advice.
More student stories
Shalaj from India, Master's in Mechatronics Engineering (MEng) at the University of Manchester
‘Students come here to learn – not just their courses, but more about life, other people and their countries and cultures, and a lot about themselves.’
Caleb from Australia, PhD in Engineering at the University of Southampton
'As an Australian, it was the open and creative environment that the UK engineering programmes champion that were a particular bonus. It is exciting to be studying and applying the latest techniques.'
In this short film, graduate Divya from India shares her experience of studying for a BEng in Engineering Business Management at the University of Warwick – and what she's doing now...