Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
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Degree Programme Specification 2021/2022

MEng (Hons) in Structural Engineering with Architecture

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:

Joint Board of Moderators (JBM) of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Structural Engineers, the Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers, and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation

Final award: MEng (Hons)
Programme title:

Structural Engineering with Architecture

UCAS code: H2KC
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Engineering
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA:

Dr Martin Gillie

Date of production/revision:


External summary

Structural engineering and architecture is the application of scientific knowledge and creativity to produce all the large scale built environment of our world. Traditional activities are the design and construction of buildings and bridges but oil exploration, energy and disaster prevention are all also now key activities.

Civil Engineers have been trained at Edinburgh University since about 1780, and there has been a Professor in Civil Engineering since 1886. However, the teaching is always innovative, and the degree programmes have been extensively developed over the last decade, making them as valuable as possible to the careers of its students. The flexible array of degrees we offer are designed to give you the scientific background and practical design experience necessary to contribute as professional engineers to large scale projects that will improve the quality of life and sustainability of civil society. Through a combination of lecture modules, laboratory work, design exercises, group projects, individual projects, and industrial interaction, we equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a professional engineer.

The teaching staff for Edinburgh's Civil and Environmental Engineering degrees are an energetic and enthusiastic group, whose research is strongly integrated into the teaching programme to produce an education of the highest standard that continuously evolves as knowledge advances. All students undertake an innovative research project near the end of their degree, giving each student the satisfaction of advancing scientific knowledge and an understanding of how to be innovative during their career.

The staff enjoy a long-standing reputation for research and innovation in all the main areas of the profession: structures, geotechnical engineering, environmental engineering and construction management. Key current research foci are in specialised areas such as non-destructive testing, fire safety engineering, shell structures and industrial storage structures.

All of our degrees are accredited by the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM).

Educational aims of programme

  • To develop well-rounded engineering graduates of the highest calibre, with the potential to achieve Chartered Engineer status at an early stage in their career.
  • To produce graduates who display a high level of technical understanding and knowledge; have skills, in both theoretical and practical aspects of their subject, possess the relevant general skills in analysis, critical assessment of information, imaginative thought, communication, co-operative and independent work, and the capacity to tackle problems of which they have little prior knowledge
  • To provide scope for students to develop their individual interests.
  • To provide an unique approach to the teaching of civil engineering, focusing on developing critical thinking, problem solving and self learning skills with emphasis on individual, and group work in projects and designs.
  • To provide amply opportunities for students to take part in extra-curricula activities.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

During an engineering degree graduates will have been exposed to a very large range of engineering concepts and other academic and non-academic ideas as a result of studying and activities such as being involved in societies and sports.  Details of what is studied and other activities will vary greatly between graduates; as a result the range of knowledge and understanding will be similarly varied.  However, the degree has been specified to ensure that at a minimum the learning outcomes specified by the Engineering Council and refined by the Joint Board of Moderators will be met.  These are listed under headings below and under headings 11b, 11c, 11d and 11f.

  • Investigate and define an engineering problem and identify constraints including environmental and sustainability limitations, health and safety and risk assessment issues.
  • Understand customer and user needs and the importance of considerations such as aesthetics.
  • Identify and manage cost drivers.
  • Use creativity to establish innovative solutions.
  • Ensure fitness for purpose for all aspects of the problem including production, operation maintenance and disposal.
  • Manage the design process and evaluate outcomes.
  • Competent in the detailed design of structures using current codes.
  • Competent in geotechnical design and analysis of site investigation reports.
  • Wide knowledge and comprehensive understanding of design process and methodologies and the ability to apply and adapt them in unfamiliar situations.
  • Ability to generate innovative design to fulfil new needs.
  • Knowledge of the characteristics of civil engineering materials and equipment.
  • Laboratory skills.
  • Understanding of the contexts in which engineering knowledge can be applied.
  • Awareness of the nature of intellectual property and contractual issues.
  • Understanding of appropriate codes of practice and industry standards.
  • Awareness of quality issues.
  • Ability to work with technical uncertainty.
  • A thorough understanding of current practice and its limitations, and some appreciation of likely new developments.
  • Extensive knowledge and understanding of a wide range of engineering materials and components.
  • Ability to apply engineering techniques taking account of a range of commercial and industrial constraints.

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

(See also 11a)

  • Work effectively in a group environment.
  • An ability to undertake a significant research based project.
  • Understanding of the use of technical literature and other information sources.

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

(See also 11a)

  • Be able to identify and apply appropriate analytical tools for the analysis and solution of engineering problems.
  • Demonstrate creativity and innovation in problem solving and in the formulation of designs.
  • Approach problems and designs holistically, and work to an appropriate level of detail for the stage of analysis or design that is required.
  • Be able to develop, monitor and update a plan, to reflect a changing environment.
  • Be able to learn new theories, concepts, methods etc. in unfamiliar situations.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

(See also 11a)

  • Communicate technical concepts effectively orally, in writing and through engineering drawings.
  • Work effectively in a group, either as group leader or as a team member

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

Due to the high entry requirements of the degree; the challenging course material; the diversity of the members of the university; and the huge range of sporting, cultural and other opportunities available at the University of Edinburgh and more widely in the city of Edinburgh, graduates will all be highly effective humans who will change and contribute to society and the world in many different but unpredictable ways.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

(See also 11a)

In addition to the knowledge and understanding that graduates will obtain as identified above, graduates will be able to:

  • Competently plan and execute experiments, including risk assessments.
  • Use modern surveying equipment.
  • Use library and other information resources effectively.
  • Apply a range of software tools in design.

Programme structure and features

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


No. of Courses

Points / Course

Points / Year

SCQF Level

SCQF Points































Full precise details of the programme structure vary from year to year; current details are available online at:


Three threads run through the programme: design, sustainability and health and safety.

Design Design skills are developed continually during our degree programmes. We gradually build students’ confidence and ability until they can confidently tackle complex and open-ended engineering designs subject to the diverse constraints and drivers present on a real project. Design permeates throughout our programmes. Some courses are explicitly design-focused, whereas other courses concentrate upon developing analysis and theory. In all cases, however, design provides the context for the analysis that is being presented and for tutorial problems.

We nurture our students’ design abilities in the early years of our programmes with projects including a road design and the design of a hydropower reservoir and dam. The technical basis of these projects is simplistic; the aim is instead to expose students to the design process and to give them confidence in interpreting a design brief, design team working, converging on a design that is in some way ‘optimal’, and assessing solutions based on function, cost and environmental implications.

As well as open-ended design problems, the early years of our degree programme provide many of the fundamental design methods that form an engineer’s ‘toolkit’. The sizing of structural elements of different materials, for example, is investigated through well defined design problems.

We expose students to code-based design, but have taken advantage of the transition from British Standards to Eurocodes to move away from teaching formulaic code methods. Our emphasis is on understanding behaviour, and developing the confidence to pick up and apply any code (be it British Standard, American Concrete Institute, or any other code).

In parallel to ‘rigorous’ design methods, we foster an intuitive ‘feel’ for engineering through back-of-the-envelope type calculations, load paths, historical context (case studies such as Ronan Point and the development of materials), and by asking “do you think this looks the right size?”.

Other skills required in the designer’s toolkit that are gradually developed are an ability to apply appropriate computer tools (from spreadsheet solution to specialised software), and the use of concept development through sketches and scribbles, in contrast to the carefully-formatted notes and drawings that dominate computer generated material (such as lecture notes).

From third year onwards, students tackle a variety of team-based design projects of increasing complexity and scope. These provide practice and confidence in formulating designs, finding solutions to contradictory demands, and assessing the solutions in terms of the function and sustainability of the design (environment, cost, safety by design, etc.). This practice in turn builds appreciation of the importance of establishing the design concept, the iterative nature of design and review, and develops ‘engineering judgement’.

The design projects include building structure design, geotechnical design of a submerged tube tunnel, and multidisciplinary design, working with students in other engineering disciplines on a hydropower scheme, passive house or potable water supply. The culmination is a 2-week bridge design that covers the full breadth of the design process in an intensive design office environment.

Examples of the students’ experience during these projects are uncertainty and contradiction, management of the design process, ‘buildability’, client-designer-checker roles (through role play, as an independent checker), conversations with stakeholders, design for operational safety and maintenance (CDM), and communication through drawings, calculations and reports. Academics with design-office experience lead the projects, with strong support from practising engineers, who provide lectures, help set briefs and discuss students’ designs with them in the design office setting.

Sustainability Sustainable development, comprising economic, social and environmental sustainability, is a key feature permeating our degree programmes.

At all stages of our degrees, the requirement for engineering projects to be economically efficient, to embrace the needs and meet the concerns of stakeholders and to function in harmony with the natural environment is emphasized.

The underlying knowledge and understanding of sustainable development as a concept is given primary coverage from students’ first semester in Year 1 in the course ‘Engineering 1’. This is a multidisciplinary course taken by all engineering students in first year and covers a wide range of sustainable development themes including for example resource and energy scarcity, global climate change and various political and social structures of relevance. The role of civil engineering on the four UK key priorities for sustainable development identified as sustainable consumption and production, natural resource protection and environmental enhancement, building sustainable communities and climate change and energy, is covered in the following semester’s ‘Civil Engineering 1’ course. Key primary coverage of the knowledge and understanding and intellectual aspects of sustainable development is specifically addressed during the Sustainability module of ‘Infrastructure Management and Sustainability 3’. An important part of this is the Sustainability Conference in which students have the opportunity to explore sustainable development in the widest sense in a context of their choice, and then to develop transferable skills in communicating it to an audience of peers and invited guests.

Other courses focus on specific sustainability issues, for example ‘Water Resources 2’ in Year 2 covers the use and conservation of scarce water resources. A further example of this, albeit in an optional course, is teaching on ‘Water Supply and Sanitation in International Development 4’, which adds an international dimension together with aspects of global wealth distribution and social and environmental justice as they affect engineering works. Additionally, the optional course ‘Contaminated Land and Groundwater Remediation 5’ focuses on the understanding and use of sustainable remediation technologies, integrating sustainable principles, practices, and metrics into remediation projects.

All design teaching, notably the dam design in ‘Civil Engineering 1’, the Group Design Projects in the fourth year of the MEng programmes and the Geotechnical and Structural Engineering Design Projects in fourth and fifth years include sustainability aspects, with the group designs being particularly focused in this area (recent projects have included water treatment and supply, hydropower and a design for a passive house) as well as being explicitly interdisciplinary. As well as further opportunities to develop knowledge and intellectual understanding of sustainable development, design project also develop students’ practical skills for example in reporting to stakeholders at various stages.

On top of all this, most other courses make a contribution to the teaching of sustainable development. For example, a number of courses over the various years of the degrees deal with sizing of structural members, and the choice of and quantity of material used in this feeds into both economic and environmental sustainability. Most subjects relate basic theory to design at some level, and where they do, the need for designs to be sustainable is discussed. Finally, student thesis projects, whilst they vary widely in subject matter, will almost all include some aspect of sustainable development on which the students are expected to reflect and comment.

Health and Safety Risk Management Our degree programmes are structured to produce graduates with a keen awareness of the Health and Safety Risks inherent in the construction industry and with the necessary skills and attitudes to promote Health and Safety amongst all those involved with constructing, operating, disposing of or living in proximity to the projects they design. It is our intention to operate the degree programmes and our research in a safe manner for all concerned – staff, students and visitors – and thus health, safety and risk must be considerations in the use of the physical facilities and infrastructure of the School as well in the theoretical aspects within the degree courses.

We thus try to engender a culture of Health and Safety that permeates all that we do and this is done principally through an understanding of the nature of hazard, harm and risk.

Students are initially exposed to Risk Management of Health and Safety in student exercises such as laboratory classes and the Surveying Field Course in the first two years of the programme. Risk Assessments are completed for these exercises with a focus on identifying hazards and understanding how they may lead to harm. The process of risk assessment naturally covers issues such as severity versus probability of risk but students are encouraged to consider risk situations critically and evaluate each situation on its own merits rather than treat hazards and risks generically. Students working on experimental projects, which sometimes involve hazardous activities using chemicals or lasers for example, carry out further more detailed analysis and where necessary training. All student risk assessments are countersigned by staff.

Risk management, as a concept and within industrial practice – including also commercial, financial, technical and environmental risk – is taught explicitly at 3rd year level. Students are immersed in the practical management and understanding of construction risks via 3rd year site visits and through material delivered by visiting construction safety managers.

The concept of Safety in Design is instilled at an early stage in the programme with students encouraged to understand the responsibilities of designers and clients in the civil engineering process. This is demonstrated through the use of factors of safety in design as discussed from 1st year onwards, and reliability concepts in for example water resources feature widely, with students being expected to understand the risks associated with various service levels dependent on rainfall or other phenomena that cannot be controlled. In 4th and 5th year design projects hazards are expected to be identified and mitigated through the concept of ALARP. Other more advanced courses, such as Fire Engineering related courses in years 4 and 5 deal with more specific risks.

Application of all these principles of Risk Management is expected in all project and design work, and the 4th year design projects in particular are expected to be designed with a view to the safety of constructors, operators and users. The concepts and philosophies provided by the Construction (Design and Management Regulations) are thus inherent in all considerations of project delivery, from design through construction to use.

Exit routes exist from the programme as follows:


Points Required

Undergraduate Certificate of Higher Education


Undergraduate Diploma of Higher Education


BSc Ordinary


MEng Honours



Teaching and learning methods and strategies

A wide range of teaching methods are used including lectures, workshops, tutorials, laboratory classes, computing classes, design projects, self-study projects and a residential field trip.

Unique to Edinburgh is innovation learning week scheduled during this week ‘normal’ teaching is suspended which provides space outwith the curriculum for staff and students to explore new learning activities.

Assessment methods and strategies

A wide variety of assessment techniques are used including written examinations (both open- and closed-book), computer-based examinations, coursework, laboratory work and a residential field trip.  In early years the emphasis is on traditional written examinations although some coursework and laboratory work are also assessed.  In later years coursework, both group and individual, plays an increasing part in the approach to assessment.  Fifty percent of the final year of the programme is assessed by an individual thesis project supervised by a member of academic staff with research interests in the subject being studied.  Since Civil Engineering is a degree that leads to professional registration, in honours years passes are required in specified courses for “Professional Purposes”.  If a student fails such a course, they may not graduate until a pass is obtained at a resit.

Feedback is given in a wide variety of ways: verbally in tutorial and laboratory sessions, via written comments on coursework, and from exam “post mortems”.  Academic staff operate an “open door” policy so students are able to discuss their work informally as the need arrives.

Career opportunities

Engineering degrees are broad and numerate, therefore, engineering graduates have a unusually extensive range 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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