Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2020/2021

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by:

Institution of Chemical Engineers

Final award: BEng (Hons)
Programme title: Chemical Engineering
UCAS code: H800
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Engineering
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA:

Dr John Christy

Date of production/revision: June 2012

External summary

Chemical engineers are responsible for the development, design and operation of processes that produce the materials and products we all depend on. These range from the fresh water and gas supplied to our homes, to products such as polymers, fertilizers, fuels, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, paints, silicon chips, synthetic skin and many more. In all fields the chemical engineer needs to balance the need to manufacture products economically with meeting safety and environmental requirements.

As well as their instrumental role in producing the everyday products all around us, chemical engineers play a leading role in new and emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, carbon capture and the production of renewable fuels, and increasingly work at the interface between engineering and the life sciences. These novel areas are reflected in the range of optional courses available to our students. Our students study subjects at the boundary of chemical engineering with other disciplines, reflecting the wide range of activities to which we can contribute.

Our main aim is to produce chemical engineers with the knowledge and skills required to contribute to the chemical engineering discipline of today and tomorrow

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims are:

  • To give students broad knowledge and understanding of the theoretical foundations of chemical engineering;
  • To develop the analytical and mathematical expertise necessary for research, design, development or production work in the process industries, academia or government service;
  • To make students aware of the commercial and environmental context of engineering;
  • To develop the general skills and attitudes expected of an engineer;
  • To retain professional accreditation by the IChemE;
  • To develop in students a disciplined and deep approach to learning, as a foundation for future self-learning and continued professional development.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Students should acquire Knowledge and Understanding of:

A1       Mathematics and the underpinning sciences of chemical engineering: chemistry, physical principles, fluid and solid mechanics and the thermodynamics of machines and of phase and reaction equilibria.

A2       The use of the conservation equations of heat and mass in chemical plant design and analysis.

A3       Rate processes including heat transfer, mass and momentum transfer and chemical kinetics.

A4       The design of stagewise separation equipment based on the concept of the theoretical equilibrium stage. Design of differential contacting equipment using rate laws of heat, mass and momentum transfer. Chemical reactor design, solids processing.

A5       Environmental  and ethical considerations in the design, location and operation of chemical plant.

A6       The dynamics of chemical plant behaviour and the selection of appropriate control systems.

A7       Sustainability, Ethics, Safety and loss prevention in the design, construction and operation of chemical plant.

A8       Chemical plant management, process economics and optimisation in the chemical industry.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Students should be able to;

B1       Analyse and solve problems in process plant design and operation

B2       Apply scientific principles and mathematical models to the steady-state and dynamic modelling and analysis of chemical and process plant.

B3       Seek out and evaluate information and data from a variety of sources including books, journals and web sites; incorporate information from these sources and/or from experts into coherent, well-structured technicareports.

B4       Design numerical or physical experiments through which hypotheses can be tested.

B5       Use standard software for physical property estimation, steady-state and dynamic chemical plant simulation and data presentation and analysis.

B6        Display competence in chemical engineering design, requiring the bringing together of technical and other skills, the ability to define the problem and identify constraints, and the employment of creativity and innovation in the specification of a large-scale, integrated chemical or process plant.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Students should be able to:

C1       Apply scientific and mathematical methods to the analysis of problems;

C2       Be creative and innovative in developing new solutions to problems;

C3       Learn independently at levels appropriate for BEng study.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Students should be able to:

D1       Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. Such written communication will include various types of report and project plans;

D2       Work effectively in a group, either as group leader or as a team member

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Students should be able to:

E1       Effectively manage time and resources;

E2       Make proficient use of general IT tools including word processing, email, spreadsheets and the web;

E3       Evaluate and appreciate the wider implications of technology

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Students should be able to:

F1        Safely and effectively operate chemical engineering laboratory equipment and plan and carry out series of readings under varying conditions, modifying the planned readings in the light of results already obtained.

F2        Interpret the results of laboratory experiments and simulations and present them in written reports and oral presentations.

F3        Make effective use of scientific and commercial information sources and of information gained by plant inspection and conversations with operating personnel.

F4        Plan and carry out an individual or group experimental or design project, taking account of resource constraints and responding flexibly and effectively to unanticipated difficulties that arise

F5        Report on an extended project, either as an individual or as a group member contributing to a group report, meeting deadlines and presenting written and graphical material in a properly structured and literate way

Programme structure and features

The programmes are offered only as full-time courses. They normally last for 4 years.

The programme structure and equivalent SVQ points allocation are summarised below:


No. of Courses

Points / Course

Points / Year

SVQ Points








10 or 20





10, 20 and 40




8 or 9

10, 20 and 40



Exit routes exist from the programmes as follows:        


Points Required

Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education


Undergraduate Diploma of Higher Education


BSc Ordinary


BEng Honours


The programmes are designed for the full 4-year structure and not all of their aims are met even partially by earlier exit. Students in years 1 and 2 may transfer to other programmes in the College of Science and Engineering with the consent of both parties and on the advice of their Directors of Studies, who will advise on the choice of courses best adapted to keep open the option of transfer to any particular Science programme.

First year comprises two courses in each of Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering.

During the first semester students attend a general Engineering course Engineering 1, which contains assistance on appropriate physical principles to provide the necessary background for students admitted without Higher physics or its equivalent.

In the second semester they take Chemical Engineering 1.


The pass mark in all subjects is 40% for both written examination and coursework components. Progression into 2nd year requires passes in Maths 1, Chemistry 1 and Chemical Engineering 1 and Engineering 1 (or other courses with the permission of the Head of School). Students may be permitted to progress carrying up to 40 points, but if more than 20 points are to be carried progression depends on an interview.

Outcomes developed and assessed:

A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A8, B1, B2, B3, B5, C1, C2,C3, D1, E1, E2, E3, F1, F2, F3, F5

Year 2

Students take the courses Chemistry and Processes 2, Separation Processes 2, Process Calculations 2, Plant Engineering 2, Mathematics for Science and Engineering 2a and 2b, Thermodynamics (Chemical) 2, Materials Science and Engineering 2, Fluid Mechanics 2, Computational Methods for Chemical Engineers 2 and Introduction to Biochemical Engineering 2.


The pass mark in all subjects is 40% for both written examination and coursework components. Entry to 3rd year requires passes in all courses. Students may be permitted to progress carrying up to 40 points, but if more than 20 points are to be carried progression depends on an interview.

Outcomes developed and assessed:

A1, A2, A3, A4, A6, A7, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, C1, C2, C3, D1, D2, E1, E2, F1, F2, F3, F5.

Year 3

Chemical Engineering Unit Operations 3, Chemical Engineering Kinetics & Catalysis 3, Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics 3, Environmental Issues in Chemical Engineering 3, Heat, Mass and Momentum Transfer 3, Solids Processing 3, Chemical Engineering in Practice 3 and Engineering Project Management 4 are taken by students in all programmes. Chemical Engineering in Practice 3, which runs in the 2nd semester, comprises control, design (involving a mini-project on which students work in small group) and laboratory work (with a substantial load of report-writing associated).


To progress to 4th year BEng, students must obtain 40% aggregate over all 3rd year courses (normally in June at the first attempt). Compensation may be granted for up to 40 points worth of courses failed.

This is the last stage at which students registered for BEng may transfer to MEng: the criterion is an aggregate of 55% overall from 3rd year.

Outcomes developed and assessed:

A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, C1, C2, C3, D1,  D2, E1, E2, E3, F1, F2, F3, F4, F5

Year 4

BEng in Chemical Engineering:

There are 7 "core" courses which must be taken by all students: Chemical Engineering Design Projects 4, Chemical Engineering Study Project 4, Chemical Engineering Design 4, Chem Eng Design: Synthesis and Economics 4 (Process Economics, Optimisation and Energy Integration), Process Safety 4, Fluid Mechanics (Chemical) 4 and Chemical Reaction Engineering 4. The total credits for the year is made up to 120 by 1 or 2 options chosen from the BEng option list of courses:

Energy Systems 4, Separation Processes 5, Batchwise and Semibatch processing 5, Adsorption 5, Polymer Science and Engineering 5, Nanotechnology 5, Membrane Science and Technology 5 and Molecular Thermodynamics 5

Award of Honours (BEng):

An aggregate of 40% is required for successful completion of this year. Compensation may be granted for up to 40 points worth of courses failed.

Degree classifications are based on the University common marking scheme. The final classification is based on a weighted mean mark, third year contributing 50% and fourth year 50%.

Outcomes developed and assessed:

A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C1, C2, C3, D1, D2, E1, E2, E3, F3, F4, F5

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching methods include lectures, workshops, tutorial classes, laboratory classes, computing classes, design project classes and self-study projects.

A1 is acquired by attendance at first- and second-level Chemistry and mathematics courses and by teaching delivered to all first-and second-year Engineering students by Chemical, Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering staff. Further material in Mathematics, Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics up to Honours year level is taught by Chemical Engineering staff.

A2 is acquired in the Chemical Engineering parts of the first-year courses and in second-year Process Calculations 2 and reinforced in 3rd and 4th year Design course components.

A3 commences with common material in Fluid Mechanics delivered to all Engineering students in year 2 and is then further developed in year 3 and 4 teaching.

A4 is taught in a series of courses in years 1, 2, 3 and 4, but equipment design also figures in the 3rd and 4th year design courses.

A5 is the subject of a third year course but awareness of the environmental implications of chemical engineering decisions are implicit in many other parts of the course, particularly the design teaching in years 3 and 4.

A6 and A7 are taught in 2nd, 3rd and 4th year courses and subsequently developed in fourth year design teaching which is delivered by a team of academic and industrial staff.

A8 is delivered as a common Engineering Management course in 3rd year and as part of the 4th year lecture material and design teaching.

B1, B2 – Skills in modelling analysis and problem solving are introduced in the first year and strongly featured in 2nd year Process calculations 2 and Computational Methods for Chemical Engineers 2, subsequently being developed in 3rd and 4th year design courses. These courses also deliver instruction in programming and the use of standard software packages. Teaching includes both lectured sessions and practical exercises in the School's dedicated computer suites.

B3 is developed throughout the course, from 1st-year sustainability workshop reports through 2nd-year and 3rd-year laboratories, works visits and design exercises to the Study and Design Projects that figure in the 4th year. 

B4 is delivered through the modelling/analysis instruction summarised under B1 and B2 and in the laboratory classes that figure in all years of the course. The latter progress from fairly prescribed laboratory procedures in 1st and 2nd years through to more open-ended experimentation in 3rd year, with progressively increasing levels of decision taking devolved to the student.

B5 is also covered by the modelling/analysis and computing classes described under B1 and B2.

B6 is taught in 3rd and 4th years by means of lectures and workshop sessions. A major design project, taken by all students in the 4th year of study, is worked on by groups of 10-14 students who largely plan and exercise their own work by means of regular progress meetings under rotating chairship. These groups work with the guidance and advice of two members of academic staff. The design process involves identification and understanding of constraints involving the economic, social and environmental climate under which the engineer operates. These projects also develop intellectual skills involved with the comparison and evaluation of data and data sources.

C1 and C2 are practised throughout the degree programme by working on tutorial problems, reporting on laboratory work, classwork exercises and projects and receiving feedback from academic staff and demonstrators. Creativity and independent judgement are progressively encouraged through the programme by increasing demands for original or innovative work, with support from supervisors becoming less prescriptive and more a matter of general guidance and constructive criticism.

C3 is encouraged by the use of mini-projects in the works visit programme, the 3rd year design course and the 4th year design and study projects and some Honours courses.

D1 is again progressively fostered throughout the programme. The submission of project and laboratory reports commences in year 1 and is maintained in subsequent years up to the major requirements of the study, design and research projects. Project plans form part of the study project requirement. Practice in oral presentation skills is provided in the 2nd year works visit module, the 3rd year design course and the 4th year design projects.

D2 Teamwork is introduced in the 2nd year process calculations and works visits modules and the 3rd year design course, and is extensively practised in the 4th year, particularly the design project.

E1 is fostered progressively by increasing demands for the timely submission of coursework in a number of parallel subjects. Time and resource management are developed with the 4th year study and design projects.

E2 Students are introduced to general IT skills from week 1 of the 1st year course and subsequent years make increasing demands in the IT area.

E3 is studied in the 1st year sustainability workshop, 3rd year environmental and management courses and in 4th year study project.

F1 and F2 are imparted by the timetabled laboratory classes in years 1, 2 and 3 of the programme. These are staffed by academics and demonstrators who are available to give advice and support. Reports are marked promptly and ongoing feedback is readily available.

F3 is acquired through laboratory and design teaching in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years of the course and the study and design projects in the 4th year, all of which have a literature/web search component, together with the 2nd-year works visits programme which includes discussions with plant managers and personnel.

F4 is largely associated with the design and study projects in the 4th year.

F5 figures in nearly all the practical activities up to and including the 4th year projects. Reporting of results is required in all cases and takes the forms of group and individual written and oral reports, and poster sessions.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 138620
Year 238620
Year 327730
Year 447530

Assessment methods and strategies

Assessment of knowledge and understanding is tested through a combination of written examinations and assessed coursework. The yearly weighting of written examinations and coursework averages 60% and 40% respectively. Particularly in Honours years of the programme, written papers comprise compulsory questions to test for competence in all learning outcomes. Knowledge and understanding of chemical engineering fundamentals is also assessed with the material covered in the project work and assignments associated with design teaching.

Although some written examinations are set, much of the assessment of analytical skills is conducted by use of marked coursework exercises and the marking of the 4th year design and study project.

Practical skills are assessed in the form of marked reports, dissertations, posters and oral presentations. Much emphasis is placed on the ability to work well in group situations.

Feedback is provided for all written submissions, including examinations, and on oral presentations. Thus all summative assessment has a formative element. In addition, there are opportunities for formative work in computing exercises and practice exam question in first year and in tutorials, workshops and project meetings across all years of the programme.

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 172820
Year 277419
Year 375025
Year 450050

Career opportunities

Engineering graduates have a number of excellent career options available to them. Studying Engineering at the University of Edinburgh prepares you for a career as a professional engineer in the UK or abroad and all courses meet the requirements of the UK professional engineering bodies. Typically many of our graduates move on to work in internationally leading engineering companies in technical, consultancy and managerial roles, including company directorships. Alternatively, the skills and experience you gain through your degree will also equip you for a career outside engineering and many of our graduates have gone on to work in other areas, including the Civil Service, education, the armed forces and the financial sector. Engineers enjoy some of the highest starting salaries of any graduates

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