University of West London
Source: University of West London

Hertha Ayrton. Naomi Climer. Roma Agrawal. These female engineers from the UK have made historic advancements in many areas, such as developing the “Ayrton anti-gas fan” during World War One, becoming the first woman to lead the Institution of Engineering and Technology and designing the foundations for The Shard, the tallest tower in Western Europe.

Yet, the number of women in STEM-related fields within the country remains low. Just 12% of those working in engineering occupations in 2016 are women, compared to 47% of the overall UK workforce, according to EngineeringUK’s analysis of the Labour Force Survey. 

Likewise, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres — citing UNESCO’s data — has said that women hold fewer senior positions than men at top universities. This has led to “a lower publication rate, less visibility, less recognition and, critically, less funding.”

Fortunately, the best universities recognise this and are joining the fight to challenge gender bias in engineering through programmes that offer support, inspiration, and empowerment. Here’s how these four UK universities are leading the way for women engineers:

University of West London

University of West London

The University of West London is the top modern university in the UK for civil engineering, according to the Guardian University Guide 2024. Source: University of West London

If you seek an engineering education that uplifts and supports women, head to the University of West London’s School of Computing and Engineering. The university was named the top modern university in the UK for civil engineering (Guardian University Guide 2024). Here, half of the academic staff and 42% of senior staff are women.

They are supported by Women in STEM (WInSTEM), a group of academics at the school that inspires and motivates women and young girls to pursue a career in STEM. Specifically, the group curates outreach schemes for local schools and colleges within the region, as well as initiatives for existing staff and students. 

WinSTEM also partnered with Code First Girls to provide access to free online coding courses and top employment opportunities with brands across the globe for female and non-binary students.

It’s one of many reasons why more women are picking the University of West London to study Computing and Engineering — hear it from graduates like Mina Salman, “‘I see myself running my own construction business and part of the profit of that business will be contributed to different campaigns and different events to support females in engineering.” Like Salman, you’ll benefit from industry-focused, innovative courses designed to give you an edge in your career.

The best part? Close links with the industry, such as England’s “Silicon Valley” M4 Corridor, ensure you’ll find good, high-skilled jobs fast. To be part of this vibrant community, follow the School of Computing and Engineering on X today for more information.

Queen Mary University of London

Queen Mary University of London

Approximately one out of three undergraduate students enrolled in engineering and technology programmes at Queen Mary University of London are women. Source: Queen Mary University of London

Empowering, welcoming, fulfilling — an education at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Engineering and Materials Science is often all three and so much more. “The guidance and support from my mentors have allowed me to make meaningful contributions in the field of cartilage nanomechanics,” shares Dr. Sheetal Inamdar, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant. “It’s fulfilling to know that my work can positively impact lives.”

Home to over 32,000 students from over 170 countries, Queen Mary is ranked seventh overall in engineering and second in the UK for its research output in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. At its School of Engineering and Materials Science, this research prowess is inspiring the next generation of women graduates to become highly employable, engineers in stimulating and well-paid careers. 

Here, students have many opportunities to engage with cutting-edge research in: Bioengineering, Intelligent Transport, Sustainable Engineering and Engineering and Materials Education. They’re guided by staff who are developing technology to better harness energy from waves and pioneering new innovative biomaterials now improving the lives of 100,000s of patients worldwide, among many other achievements.

This is something Queen Mary plans to do for a long time — and for more women. During Women in Engineering Day and  Girls into Tech, the faculty organised several events for students, including those who identify as female or non-binary. It supports underrepresented groups, including women, to study Advanced Robotics too. To learn more about how Queen Mary is equipping tomorrow’s women engineers with the know-how to make a difference, click here.

University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow

The James Watt School of Engineering at the University of Glasgow received a Silver Athena Swan award in recognition of institutional efforts to improve gender equality. Source: University of Glasgow/Facebook

Considered the first institution in the UK to offer engineering degrees, the University of Glasgow offers students an extensive range of research-led postgraduate degrees under the James Watt School of Engineering. Some of these include: Mechatronics, Robotics and AI, Structural Engineering and Sustainable Energy.

Being research-driven, the university integrates research as part of their curriculum and offers students hands-on learning opportunities at the leading centres of research – such as the James Watt Fabrication Centre, which houses over 35 million pounds of state-of-the-art fabrication and metrology equipment.

International partnerships with institutions across the globe, such as Singapore Institute of Technology, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC) and the University of Denver, are equally crucial to deliver a practical and hands-on experience for aspiring female engineers.

That’s not all. Speaking about its Silver Athena Swan award in recognition of institutional efforts to improve gender equality, Professor David Cumming, head of the James Watt School of Engineering, said: “Our mission as a school is to set the standard for education and research in Engineering by creating an environment that supports and nurtures everyone to fulfil their personal and professional ambitions.  

Swansea University

Swansea University

Swansea University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering has a thriving research community. Source: Swansea University

Ranked 26th in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2023) and the top 20 best UK universities (StudentCrowd University Awards 2022), these accolades clearly show that students are satisfied with their time at Swansea University

Equally, the university has made great strides in challenging gender bias. For instance, the senior leadership team features five female senior leaders and five male while the student population is made up of 48% females. 

The Faculty of Science and Engineering, particularly, has a thriving research community. It is nationally and globally recognised, championing innovative and inclusive learning environments. With the necessary accreditations, Engineering at Swansea features nine disciplines: aerospace, biomedical, chemical, civil, electronic and electrical, general engineering, materials science and mechanical engineering. 

Leading them is a full roster of women researchers. They conduct research into using waste carbon dioxide to help grow algae to clean up waste fumes from local industry, sustainable manufacturing and recycling of batteries, quantifying animal movement to understand how animals respond to our changing world, and more. Amongst them, there’s no shortage of inspiration to transform Swansea students into future leaders and champions of industry, each equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities for a career in research and beyond.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International