There are so many different elements to mechanical engineering that it is difficult to know where to start. There are modules available in structural materials, thermodynamics, electromechanicals, solid mechanics, thermofluids and the ever popular area of intelligent robotics. In a perfect world a general grounding in mechanical engineering and then a particular focus on one or a small group of subjects probably works best for many students. However, how do you mix-and-match theory with practice, coursework with research and then make yourself irresistible to future employers?
The following list of the top 10 Mechanical Engineering Universities in the UK gives you an idea of the courses available, and just as importantly, each university’s track record in research. Modern day universities now have very close relationships with commercial entities which can for many students mean a seamless transfer into the workplace. So, which university is the best option for you? Where should you be focusing your attention?
We hope that the following synopsis of the top 10 Mechanical Engineering Universities in the UK is of assistance. Also check out our list of online engineering courses you can take right now, and our students’ section with information about Solidworks Student Edition, Top 5 Engineering Websites and 5 Top Places for Mechanical Engineering Academic Research among other topics.
England leads the way with regards to mechanical engineering programs with an array of graduate and postgraduate courses. However, for many it is the quality of the project research which brings together young and mature minds to look at various everyday issues, as well as new technologies, from different angles.
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge has a history in mechanical engineering which goes back nearly 150 years. Indeed the engineering department can be traced back to the creation of jet engines and the scanning of electron microscopes. The actual department opened back in 1875 in a “wooden hut” but went on to become the largest department in the University.
The ability to incorporate cutting-edge research, while at the same time enhancing the academic skills of students, is what makes the University of Cambridge stand out from the rest. The department is currently focused on mechanics, materials, biomechanics and engineering design with particular emphasis on biotechnology and medicine. There was also been great progress made in “engineering dynamics and vibration” and in particular the concept of flying cars. It would appear that this previously far-fetched idea is a lot closer than many might expect. While commercial partners may grab the headlines, you may just find that the University of Cambridge is behind the next big jump in this sector.
Imperial College London
If you’re ever looked into mechanical engineering courses at university there is no doubt you will have come across the Imperial College London which has a long and successful history. The mechanical engineering department has more than 100 permanent staff with 120 fixed term research staff and it works in collaboration with an array of industry leaders. The college can accommodate more than 500 high achieving undergraduates and postgraduate students offering them the best facilities and resources available.
Historically mechanical engineering has been a male dominated arena but this is changing with the likes of the Imperial College London actively promoting equality. The department specialises in applied mechanics, including nuclear engineering, mechanics of materials, with expertise in structural integrity and last but not least, thermofluids. One of the leading research groups is looking into heat transfer, combustion and fire science. The idea is simple; reduce the number of accidental fires, slashing deaths, while protecting both property and the environment.
University of Oxford
When you think of university cities many of us automatically think of Oxford and Cambridge so it is no surprise to see the University of Oxford in the top five UK mechanical engineering establishments. While the University has especially strong focus on computing, materials science and medicine it does actually incorporate the full range of engineering branches as well as mechanical engineering. Like so many of the leading universities in England this education/research facility has a history which goes back over 100 years – 1908 to be exact. As a consequence it is no surprise to see the University of Oxford so popular with academic students.
It is difficult to know where to start with regards to specialist areas covered by the University. Students who have left the university have gone off in many different directions into areas such as car design, building roads and bridges, manufacturing pharmaceuticals and healthcare. The key to the success of University of Oxford is not only its divergences but the level of intense research and undergraduate/postgraduate study programs. On a separate note, the University is currently involved in a Covid-19 testing application which has already been spun off into the commercial world.
University of Bristol
The University of Bristol offers an array of engineering undergraduate/postgraduate courses and has a reputation up there with the best engineering universities. Ask any student and they will reiterate the high-class research facilities and opportunities for those interested in mechanical engineering to progress to the top. The city has also gained significant praise from students who also enjoy a life outside of University!
As seems to be the norm at the moment, engineering departments tend to lead the way when it comes to internal activity and external partnerships. The University of Bristol has a number of high standard research groups which take in subjects such as dynamics and control, robotics, solid mechanics, engineering systems and design as well as fluids and aerodynamics. These are cutting-edge areas in the world in mechanical engineering and we already know that students from the University of Bristol are in great demand once they graduate.
University of Bath
The University of Bath is a relatively new addition to the family of universities having been established in 1966. While offering courses in humanities, management, science and social science, for many it is the engineering department which leads the way. Recently the engineering department was fleet of foot making more than 80,000 pieces of PPE as the UK continues the battle against Covid-19. This is a perfect illustration of how universities such as Bath are able to adapt and refocus their facilities as and when required.
As well as an array of undergraduate courses there is also the ability to prove your value to employers with an engineering placement year. Students also have the opportunity to get involved in research, learning about workshop practice, experimental methods, data analysis, building prototypes and common engineering machines. One recent development from the research department involved the improvement of the traditional blind persons white cane. This involved the use of ultrasonic waves to identify obstacles and communicate these to the visually impaired user. This project is currently in the midst of commercialisation and could very well make it to market.
Scotland has long had a history of success in engineering and it is no surprise to see the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow recognised as two of the leading lights. We live in a world which is constantly changing and new technologies emerging – perfectly illustrated by the emergence of Covid-19 and the response of academics.
University of Strathclyde
While the University of Strathclyde offers an array of different mechanical engineering courses, it is their leading research into mechanical and aerospace engineering which has put them on the map. Students attending the University are encouraged to get heavily involved in ground breaking research, as undergraduates and postgraduates. The University is also very welcoming of international students who very often bring different skills to the table.
The University of Strathclyde was recently able to outsource its wind turbine material expertise as part of a £6 million EU project aimed at developing renewable energy storage solutions. This is a huge market going forward with Scotland very much at the forefront with a natural habitat that is perfect for wind turbines. The UK government, post Brexit, has also been making very positive noises with regards to a complete transformation of the UK energy supply and storage systems going forward. When you consider the abundance of mechanical engineering courses, together with the opportunity to become heavily involved in research and development, it is no surprise to see the University of Strathclyde doing so well.
University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is not only a world leader in mechanical engineering but also aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, civil engineering and electronics/electrical engineering. The University is extremely proud of it track record with 95% of the University’s research judged as “internationally excellent” or “world beating”. There is no doubt that the University of Glasgow is one of the leading lights amongst UK universities specialising in engineering and in particular mechanical engineering.
The range of postgraduate and undergraduate mechanical engineering degrees is huge taking in aeronautics, mechanical design and many more subjects. The ability to become involved in research and development as an undergraduate or postgraduate will enhance the development of students and increase their hands-on experience. Finding a mix of practical and theoretical skills is not easy but then again, few universities have the world-class research facilities on offer at the University of Glasgow.
It will be no surprise to learn that Swansea University and Cardiff University lead the way with regards to mechanical engineering degrees and research in Wales. The ability to mix university research with commercial funding/applications has helped many products and services come to market.
Swansea University has a reputation for excellence especially in the field of mechanical engineering. When you consider that all graduates are either in work/further education six months after graduating this says everything. The average starting salary back in 2016/17 was £25,000 which is certainly a good start for any career. As well as an array of graduate and postgraduate degrees, for many students it is the universities close relationship with local companies which makes Swansea University standout.
Companies such as Tata Steel, Ford, AstraZeneca, British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce regularly work with the university. They bring practical problems to test the theoretical and physical skills of degree students. Like so many leading universities in the UK, Swansea has taken a particular interest in new emerging industries such as renewable energy, recycling systems as well as groundbreaking sports equipment design. The ability to be one step ahead of the competition, already building relationships with local companies and creating practical solutions for practical problems ensures that Swansea is well set for the future.
The in-depth range of degrees offered by Cardiff University has further cemented their reputation as a leading light in the world of mechanical engineering. The broadbrush approach takes in design, construction as well as products and processes, but there is more. Cardiff University has a particular focus on the design of car engines, new and adapted materials for the aerospace industry as well as the latest in 3D printing processes. However, there is also one other subject that continues to grab the headlines!
Students enrolled at Cardiff University will be well aware that the university is a leading light in the world of intelligent robots. While general progress in this industry has been perhaps lower than expected, we can’t wait to see what the Cardiff University students/research teams come up with next. This enhanced reputation in the world of intelligent robots has attracted huge commercial interest and funding for not only the mechanical engineering department but the university as a whole. At a time when funding can be difficult, there is no doubt that expertise in the field of mechanical engineering are still much sought after. Students passing through Cardiff University will certainly have a good grounding for their future career!
If you were to guess which University in Northern Ireland would be the leading light in mechanical engineering your first thought would probably be Queen’s University Belfast. This is a university which has a world-renowned reputation across many different subjects and research projects.
Queen’s University Belfast
Those studying in Northern Ireland will be well aware of the reputation of the Queens University Belfast. This is a university which boasts leading scholars and Nobel Prize winners such as Seamus Heaney and David Trimble. The fact that more than 96% of Queen’s graduates are in employment/further education six months after graduation says everything about the quality of education and the standard of practical research.
Mechanical engineering research at the Queen’s University Belfast takes in a huge range of subjects; designing the latest road vehicles, developing new sustainable materials as well as research into alternative energy sources and nanotechnology. Even though nanotechnology is not necessarily a new subject to the world of mechanical engineering, it is still very much in its infancy. Bring together experience, youth and an ability to “think outside the box” has created a leading reputation for Queen’s University Belfast research projects. Certainly one to think about!
We live in a world where our thoughts are very much dictated to by history; many people are unable to think outside the box which can be toxic for entrepreneurs and those who think differently and approach problems from various angles. We have looked at 10 of the U.K.’s leading mechanical engineering universities and from what we see the future certainly looks bright. Mixing theoretical education with practical research in an environment which encourages unorthodox thinking offers the perfect mix.