Frequently asked questions
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How would you recommend me to choose an Engineering course?
Your choice of any degree course should satisfy some key objectives:
- The subject area must excite you and motivate you
- The City and University should be the sort of place that will allow you to enjoy your time and enrich the sort of life that you live.
- The subject area must be studied in such a way that you come to understand the way the world works in a range of areas that will be useful for your future career. From any course that you take e.g. A' levels, you will forget most of the data, but the key question is whether you have gained some tools for thought that will allow you to understand and think about a significant part of the world.
Additionally you need to choose an engineering course that will:
- Give you a head start on the sort of engineering projects you think you want to work on. The Engineering Design course at Bristol is aimed at large scale interdisciplinary projects: transport systems, power generations systems, water use systems, aircraft, chemical plants etc
- Give you the opportunity to get work experience in the right sort of industry.
- Have the status to get you an interview for the right sort of job.
Is the Engineering Design course significantly harder than the Mechanical Engineering course you run?
The Engineering Design Course is not intended to be harder, it is however intended to be different. The Engineering Design course is aimed at leaders and leaders are expected to be able to take a wider Systems view. They must know about the likely socio-economic and environmental effects of their work.
Getting accepted onto the course may be harder as our industrial sponsors will be involved in the selection process and you will have to take some special tests. This course is really only suitable for highly motivated students.
How does the course differ from other Engineering Programmes?
This degree programme is deliberately aimed at leaders. We choose students to come on the course partly based on their leadership potential; we have a special course unit whose function is to make sure that the students have a broad understanding of the role of Engineering projects in changing the world, an understanding of social responsibility and a real grip on the fundamentals of all engineering subjects. We develop students critiquing skills by training them in 'back of the envelope calculations'. The ability to do 'back of the envelope calculations is essential for team leaders as they must check that their team are getting things right without having to do other people's work for them. The emphasis is multi-disciplinary working although all students will choose to specialise in some area.
How much mathematics is there on the course?
Mathematics is a subject full of rich concepts and generalisations. These help people to see the wood for the trees and know where to go - essential for good leaders. Engineering Design students need not spend more hours studying mathematics than other engineers at Bristol.
What non-engineering options are available? Can I study a foreign language?
If you look at the programme you will see that there are 40 credits worth of "Open Options". There are 120 credits in a years study. You can study anything in your Open Options including languages. This provides a great opportunity to learn what you need, once you have clarified your ideas of a career path.
How much specialisation is there? To what extent can I focus on a particular theme?
One third of years 4 and 5 are set aside for specialisation. In addition you will be expected to be the expert in your specialisation for all group design projects and when you spend a year in industry, you will presumably choose to work in your specialist industry.
What facilities are available (e.g. computer or experimental labs)?
All the facilities of the Engineering Faculty will be available to support the Design Degree. So we have Aerospace, Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and mathematical laboratories.
Does the course involve any artistic work?
The ability to sketch ideas for new designs is highly valued, but the programme is mainly about engineering systems so you should not expect to rely on your artistic ability to get you through.
Where does the actual emphasis of the course lie?
The Engineering Design course at Bristol was started because the leading industrialists, who act as visiting Professors to the Faculty of Engineering here, felt that there was a need for a type of engineering training that was not available elsewhere. This group of Visiting Professors were involved in large scale projects usually of an international nature; they saw that most engineering courses produce students will a narrow sectional view of engineering. Big projects need leaders who can interact with all the different sorts of specialist but who can take an overview of the project in economic, social and environmental terms as well as run the project as an engineer - the Visiting Professors saw that no university was giving the right training.
They were very clear that a general engineering degree course was not the answer but that students must have a specialisation as well as a good overall understanding of the concepts underlying all the differing engineering disciplines. Hence the design of the course; Students all have a specialisation that they follow but they learn about all the main engineering disciplines. In particular we are very keen to make sure that students become excellent at group working on multi-disciplinary projects and that they learn the skill of criticising work in other specialisms by using their grasp of the key concepts.
During the students' year in industry, is there continued University contact - i.e. lectures/tutorials etc?
The year in industry is salaried - so you will be an employee subject to the conditions of being employed. It is however also academically assessed; so you will have support from a tutor who will visit you at work. You will be required to do coursework and make presentations on your work.
Some supporting companies have branches or are based in North America, can I take the third year in industry there?
There is absolutely no reason for us as a university to object to you going to North America for your third year. It is up to the company to decide where to employ you. Having said that, when we have talked to the companies about overseas placements they usually suggest that perhaps half of the year's placement might be abroad. It will be up to you to persuade them!
The industrial placement in the 3rd year is salaried. Will I need to pay full tuition fees during this year?
The fees payable for a placement year are 15 percent of full fees at present.
Are the placements always in/near Bristol, or might I need to live elsewhere and find accommodation?
Most placements are within commuting distance of Bristol; but several of our supporting companies have offices in other parts of the country and the student will assess the benefit of the placement offered to him/her against the benefits of the situation of the placement. I don't remember a student reporting a problem finding accommodation and employers usually provide assistance. Students sometimes live at home when the placement is close to home or may share with other placement students.
Am I required to do summer placements, and if so, is this every Summer?
Summer placements are not assessed by the university and are not a requirement. There is however a considerable benefit from having done a summer placement at the end of the first year in terms of being able to get a 'better' placement for year 3. Students make the choice and bear the consequences. Some students find themselves a placement after year 4 because they want a particular experience.
How will the sponsored year in industry be gained?
We have 15 supporting companies at present. You will not need to apply in advance for sponsorship. All students will be placed during the year out and the university will help arrange this.
Will students receive an annual bursary from their sponsoring company?
Engineering Design students are not automatically sponsored by a company. After you have spent a year with a company on placement, the company will often offer a bursary as a way of keeping you thinking about them. These sorts of bursaries are annual payments.
I want to obtain experience in a large company. Should I apply for sponsorship before being confirmed on the course?
I am hoping to be sponsored through University by a large company in order to obtain industrial experience. I think that at the moment Bristol is my first choice to study Engineering Design. However, I am aware that if I fail to be accepted for a place then I may have missed my chance to obtain sponsorship. I would probably be applying to those same companies which are supporting the course, so should I apply to them and if I get offered a sponsorship accept it whether or not I get offered a place for Engineering Design at Bristol?
If you apply for sponsorship and get accepted by one of our partner companies, then I would expect that they would sponsor you on the Engineering Design Programme. You could then get your industrial experience in the vacations and the middle year of the degree programme instead of going to them for the year before university entry. You would be wise when offered sponsorship to clarify this issue as large companies often do not know what other parts of the same company are doing.