The world is changing rapidly.
Whether we’re talking about artificial intelligence, automation, energy, or transportation, the world of engineering is barrelling excitedly forward. There may never have been a more exciting time to be an engineer - as they say, the world is your oyster.
But before you sit down to change the world, there is the small matter of an engineering degree. A minor holdup - but one you should think carefully about.
The UK remains one of the finest places in the world to study engineering, and here are five reasons why:
The late 18th Century saw the birth of the industrial revolution in the UK. The advancements in engineering during the following decades was nothing short of astonishing as the world jumped forward. The speed of change across industries like transportation, manufacturing and construction in the UK at this time was unprecedented.
But this has always been a country of great innovators who have shaken the world with their creations. According to the Global Innovation Index 2019, the UK still ranks 5th in the world in terms of innovation. As an engineer with bright ideas, it’s a great place to start!
Engineering is one of those fields of study that you can go out into the real world for inspiration, and with such a wealth of options across the centuries to choose from, you can’t really go wrong with where it all began.
If you’re looking to study engineering, you’re spoilt for choice in the UK. The country currently has three universities in the World’s top 10 in terms of Engineering and Technology - with Cambridge, Imperial College and Oxford leading the way. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Durham, Sheffield, Southampton and Bristol all boast world-class reputations and state of the art facilities.
Whether you want the big city thrills or the more relaxed town atmosphere, the UK has exactly what you’re looking to combine it with an engineering course.
Courses in the UK are known to offer an excellent theory to practical ratio. Nobody wants to be stuck in a classroom all year - especially engineers, and most universities offer the kind of hands-on approach that they really love.
Lastly, you’ll find that an engineering course in the UK is widely respected around the world. The British education system has always been highly regarded, and it continues to be today. Employers from around the world that see a UK university on a CV will usually associate it with respect, discipline and hard work (whether that actually applies to you or not!).
Many universities in the UK work hard to build relationships with businesses related to what their students are studying, and this is particularly true with engineering.
UK universities provide a bridge to the real world that many do not. They might bring in local guest speakers, while also helping to organise work experience or placements for their students to participate in.
The benefit you get from actually being around those who are doing what you want to do should never be overlooked. It’s a bit like gold dust. If you have always dreamt of designing bridges, then you should make every effort to be around those who design bridges today. Simple as that.
Engineering has long been considered a man’s world, but things are changing quickly. Though the current President of the Engineering Professors Council is male, his two immediate predecessors were female. Potential students shouldn’t be constrained by old stereotypes that we need to get rid of once and for all.
The UK remains one of the most tolerant and welcoming for international students, but also in terms of breaking down gender stereotypes. In 2018, 12.37% of the engineers in the UK were female, while 25.4% of females aged between 16 and 18 years reported that they wanted to work in the engineering field later on in life.
Though these numbers may still seem low, they are climbing steadily year in year out. Wherever you come from in the world, and whatever you want to study, you shouldn’t feel constrained by what is “normal”.
But what happens next? A great engineering course at a wonderful university is all well and good, but the day will come when you need to put your studies behind you and strike out into the real world. Stumbling out of university, peering worriedly around you as you begin to plan your next step can be a stressful time - but you are in the right place for it.
The UK offers excellent opportunities for graduates in the engineering sector, where the demand normally outweighs the supply. There are often simply more engineering jobs than there are engineers.
That’s good news for engineering graduates, who are likely to have a much wider variety of employment options with other courses.
You’ll also find lots of choices for engineering graduate schemes once you finish university. These typically last two years and give you the kind of real-world experience with a company that will prove invaluable as your career progresses. These paid schemes are the perfect way to start your engineering career.
The world of engineering is booming, and it is an exciting time to be entering this area of study. Whether you want to build bridges, supersonic planes or the latest AI technology, an engineering degree in the UK is the perfect place to begin the journey.
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Oli lives in London and is a writer and photographer.