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Guide to Studying Engineering in the UK

First class engineers are needed all over the world, and demand for their skills is growing and growing. British universities have a reputation for producing top class engineering graduates, so it’s not surprising that they attract many overseas students.

Countless famous engineers lived and worked in Britain, including Alexander Graham Bell, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and George Stephenson. Modern British-born engineers and designers include Jonathan Ive (designer of the iPhone) and James Dyson (inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner). The first step in emulating the success of these pioneering Brits is to study engineering at a British university.

What types of engineering courses are there?

There are at least 40 different types of engineering courses at British universities. You can choose from computer science, robotics, aeronautics, sustainable energy, medical technology and many other subjects. If you want to study engineering in the UK, you must first choose from a large number of specialities.

Your decision could be influenced by the type of demand for engineers in your country and the job you want. Most countries have a high demand for many types of highly qualified engineers.

What else will I learn?

Some courses will have modules that are not related to engineering. Many students like this, as they feel that studying additional subjects makes them a more rounded graduate.

An engineering course can be hard work and take up a lot of a student’s time, but British universities offer a rich and varied range of extracurricular activities too that can allow overseas students to find out more about British culture and get a real understanding of the way of life.

What are universities looking for in engineering students?

To get accepted onto an engineering course you will need good A-Level grades or their equivalent. Most courses will require Maths and Physics A-Levels or the equivalent.

Having the required qualifications is not enough in itself to be accepted on an engineering course; universities are looking for applicants with a keen interest in the subject too, and you will need to prove that you are motivated. At school, studying is usually directed, but on an engineering course, universities expect you to be self-motivated and disciplined, as there is more freedom in how you study. Students should be able to work independently and efficiently.

Engineering, perhaps more than most subjects, is about solving problems in the real world. This means that students need to demonstrate that they know how to apply what they learn in an engineering course to practical, real life situations.

You will have an advantage if you have had a holiday job or carried out part-time work in an engineering work environment. Some students find it helps to work for an engineering company in their gap year before coming to the UK to study engineering.

Most engineering courses start in September, but students can apply for courses several months before the start date.

Where should I study engineering in the UK?

According to The Complete University Guide, the top 10 ranked universities to study engineering are:

  1. Imperial College London
  2. Cambridge
  3. Oxford
  4. Southampton
  5. Nottingham
  6. Manchester
  7. University College London
  8. Leeds
  9. Sheffield
  10. Edinburgh

Though these are regarded as the best, there are plenty of universities outside the top 10 that provide excellent quality courses.

How much will it cost?

Course fees are around £10,000 a year for overseas students. You also need to budget at least £12,000 a year for living expenses – perhaps more if you’re studying in London or the South East.

Some universities offer scholarships for a select number of overseas students that will cover all or part of the course fees.


For non-European Union students to study in Britain (unless they are Swiss nationals), they need to apply for a visa. Most students will require the Tier 4 student visa. For this, you will need a sponsor, but if you have been accepted as a student, your university will act as your visa sponsor.

To support a visa application, students need to prove that they can afford to live in Britain. You may be required to submit your qualification documents and attend an interview at which you may have your fingerprints scanned.

A student visa will allow you to live in Britain for the duration of your course. Most university degree courses last for three years, and it is advisable to take up membership with G8way for this period to help you protect your visa status. The benefits of this membership will mean that if something should happen that puts your visa at risk, you will have access to the specialist advice and support you need - when you need it.

If your course will last for a maximum of six months, you may only require a short-term study visa. As with a Tier 4 visa, it is advisable to protect this with G8way membership.


After passing an engineering course and being awarded a degree, many students go on to take a post graduate Master of Engineering or Master of Science in Engineering course. Masters courses can range from two to four years in length. Some emphasise practical skills while others focus on more academic engineering subjects, or are research based.

Most Masters courses will require a good class of degree. Some are aimed at engineers who have undertaken a year or two of work experience.

What can I do after studying?

Many engineering courses will have a work experience element, which provides students with experience of working in an engineering environment and also helps graduates to get their first engineering jobs once they have completed their course.

A good class engineering degree can make you an ideal candidate for a number of engineering jobs. Many first jobs for graduates pay reasonably well and graduates can have a long and rewarding career.

Most engineering degrees will be in a specialised type of engineering, which will influence the type of jobs that you can expect to find, but perhaps the main advantage of the course is that engineers are in demand worldwide, so the choice of graduate jobs is not confined to your home country. Graduates from UK universities may be able to find jobs in Britain or elsewhere in Europe, provided they can obtain a work visa.

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