Why I Chose Civil Engineering With Industrial Experience at the University of Birmingham

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By Will, Civil Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

Hi, I’m Will, and I’m a third year MEng Civil Engineer.

This time around I’m going to shed some light onto why I decided that I wanted to study civil engineering at Birmingham.

I think the most important thing to me when applying to university was the kind of place I was ending up in, above what the course was like. I think this is particularly true of engineering, because if you are looking to get chartered one day (a professional status/qualification which requires a masters level engineering degree and about 5 years’ engineering experience across a number of projects and roles), then you will want to go to a university (like Birmingham and most of the Russell Group).

These universities offer an engineering degree which is accredited – a word meaning the degree is verified by professional bodies like the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) to satisfy the academic element you need when applying to become a chartered engineer. This means that you’ll learn similar things at most universities because the ICE and IMechE require you to be taught certain things (that’s not to say that you’ll be taught in the same way, though).

For me, that meant that the location was what mattered most. I am originally from south London, and liked the idea of staying in a big city, so I wanted to go somewhere sociable with good nightlife, and somewhere that would have plenty of companies offering summer/year placements. Birmingham fitted this bill perfectly for me: a large city with lots going on, and it’s a hub of engineering in the UK. Adding to that that the University of Birmingham is large, leafy and sociable, I decided that it could be the best setting for my ideal university experience.

I think it’s all too easy to focus on the obvious things when applying to university – the focus seems to be on what degree you are studying – but recognising that where you go to university is where you will live for at least three years of your life is, in my opinion, more important than that. That’s even before you consider that you could like it so much you stay and work here: which works perfectly given Birmingham’s excellent job prospects for engineers.

Given that Birmingham appealed to me as a lively and fun place to study, with job prospects and a green campus study environment with great facilities, my attention then looked to the course. The course is very design-led, and taught by academics who are all working on leading research projects in the time they aren’t spending teaching us.

In first, second and third year, all students undertake the Integrated Design Project module, which unites civil, mechanical and electrical engineers to tackle an engineering project, which gives a fantastic chance to taste the real engineering world and apply lots of what we have learnt in lectures and labs.

Another fantastic resource that enticed me to Birmingham was the RESPECT scheme for civil engineers: a placement scheme where around 15 companies come to the university and all accept one common application form for getting summer and year-long placements, which means you have the opportunity to apply all 15 companies at once. This massively increases your chances of getting a placement. That’s particularly important given how often placement students are offered jobs for when they graduate if they work well with the company.

I was lucky enough to get a placement with Amey, a big consulting firm, and after a placement with them last summer I have been invited back to go on placement with them again this summer, and I hope this will lead to a job with them after graduation!

So, for me, Birmingham seemed like the perfect place to study. I really love studying here and may well stay after I graduate. I really think it’s a great city to live in and love going out here and enjoying what the city has to offer. When I was applying, I felt that I would like studying here, and I’m glad I decided to. Combining a course that plays to my strengths in a place with lots of job opportunities, that is also a great place to have fun is exactly how I wanted my university experience to set me up for the start of my career as an engineer!