Source: Imperial College London
Source: Imperial College London

Chemical engineers stay in demand because of the vast array of industries that depend on their competencies. After all, these professionals have been improving our well-being for over a century. Think of adhesives, antibiotics, plastics, fertilisation, sanitation, or clean water — we would not have access to the most important solutions of the modern era without chemical engineers. 

The journey to becoming one is equally fulfilling. Chemical engineering students work toward mastering the science of combining raw materials to create something new. They study alongside industry experts to leverage their knowledge of reactions to create world-changing solutions to global challenges. At the best universities, they are granted countless opportunities to put knowledge into practice. 

Through work-based learning, institutions are helping students prepare for the industry, where learning never stops. With record high inflation, COVID-19 variants, supply chain issues, the increasing threat of climate change, and more emerging technologies on the horizon, the ability to make small yet relevant discoveries in laboratories and replicate them on a mass scale will always pay off. 

According to Prospects, the median salary for chemical engineers under 25 in the early stage of their careers is about 30,000 pounds, rising to a median salary of 54,000 pounds for more experienced engineers. Here are four universities in the UK preparing students to reap these rewards while thriving in a field sure to continue fueling the world for generations to come:

Imperial College London, Department of Chemical Engineering

Ranked first among Russell Group universities for research impact, Imperial College London is home to a Department of Chemical Engineering that works with industry powerhouses to create solutions with immediate, real-world impact. Think reducing carbon emissions, developing clean energy technologies and infrastructure, and producing innovations in healthcare — their research interests range from the molecular to the mega-scale. Everyone is welcome to participate.

The Department of Chemical Engineering first offered undergraduate courses in 1937, making it one of the oldest, most experienced chemical engineering divisions in the UK. Its integrated four-year degree programme is also the first in the country to fulfil the most recent Engineering Council MEng requirements. The course combines core foundation subjects, design, specialised modules, sometimes a year abroad, and of course, practical work in labs and the pilot plant.

To graduate chemical engineers who will continue Imperial’s legacy of solving the world’s greatest challenges, the college offers students unlimited access to state-of-the-art facilities — all of which are leveraged alongside a cadre of highly skilled technicians.

Students have the opportunity to carry out hands-on research as part of their studies in Imperial’s bespoke undergraduate teaching laboratory, with access to the Analytical Services laboratory which houses a suite of major analytical instruments. The undergraduate workshop allows students to design and create equipment with the support of a team of expert workshop engineers.

Stretching over four floors, the carbon capture pilot plant is built to the highest industrial standards. It is a unique facility that teaches undergraduates the ins and outs of running a plant. Spaces like these are just one of the reasons why Imperial Chem Eng is consistently rated as one of the leading departments in the UK and the world for research in chemical engineering or why student satisfaction at Imperial is now at 90%.

ChemEng Soc is an active, student-led society which organises a range of social and career-based events throughout the academic year. They run a buddy system for new students, host annual welcome dinners, and work closely with the department to ensure students have an excellent, well-rounded experience while at Imperial.

Source: University of Manchester

Ninety-percent of the University of Manchester’s research findings are described as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent.” Source: University of Manchester

The University of Manchester, Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science

The University of Manchester’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science (CEAS) is where many of the nation’s most respected academics are tackling some of the most pressing issues of today.

From developing ways to make chemical processing more efficient and sustainable to detecting fuel leaks early, from creating software that helps companies track their carbon footprint to developing technology that reduces greenhouse gas — studying and conducting research there are opportunities to innovate with impact.

Located on campus grounds, the James Chadwick Building is home to an array of world-class research facilities. This is where the department’s impressive range of laboratory space, dedicated computer suites and a wide selection of large-scale industrial processing equipment are housed — benefiting researchers, collaborators and students alike.

“Manchester is the best place to study chemical engineering. Awesome lecturers, modern labs, enquiry-based learning and peer-assisted study sessions help to mould every potential chemical engineer to the best he or she can be in the future,” says Shobana Simon Manickam, a graduate.

Source: Cardiff University

Cardiff University students benefit from the institution’s research-rich setting. Source: Cardiff University

Cardiff University, School of Engineering

Located in the vibrant Welsh capital, Cardiff University is an outstanding and ambitious university that offers exceptional academics and an unforgettable student experience. Driven by intense curiosity and creativity, the university consistently strives to fulfil its social, cultural and economic obligations to Cardiff, Wales, the UK and the world.

With 1,550 undergraduate students, 407 postgraduates, and several members of staff and research faculty, the School of Engineering is a key division of the Cardiff University brand. Frequently conducting internationally-recognised research and nurturing ideas rife with ambition and innovation, the school is known to provide an excellent educational experience that places students at the heart of a dynamic learning environment.

The school’s undergraduate portfolio is incredibly well-regarded, with programmes that are valued by local, national and international employers. On top of this, strong industrial partnerships allow students to find meaningful solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems and maximise the impact of research. 

These partners are not mutually exclusive to the School of Engineering, and students of the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering can benefit from them. Partners include: Airbus, ARUP, BP Global, DoW, ESA, Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover, Matthey, Mott MacDonald, National Grid, Ricardo, Tata Steel and beyond. Students can benefit from these diverse connections through industry placements and internships, giving them the chance to forge an invaluable professional network long before they graduate.

Source: University of Edinburgh

The impact of Edinburgh’s research benefits communities locally, nationally and internationally. Source: University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh, School of Engineering

The University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering is home to more than 250 staff, plus over 2,500 students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. They sit within four teaching disciplines and seven research institutes covering the breadth and depth of world-leading engineering.

Courses here were designed to equip tomorrow’s discoverers with the skills, intelligence and creativity needed to tackle engineering challenges of all sorts. For practice, they turn to some of the several education and research organisations available on campus, which is also home to a cluster of science and technology companies. Several of these companies are spin-out companies based on research or start-ups that set up shop on campus to build close ties with the College. 

It’s not hard to get inspired at the School of Engineering, which is one of the most industrially engaged within the university. Its graduates provide a higher-than-average economic impact when they enter the workplace — many credit their success to the knowledge they gained within Edinburgh’s Engineering Research Institutes: Bioengineering (IBioE), Digital Communications (IDCoM), Energy Systems (IES), Infrastructure and Environment (IIE), Integrated Micro and Nano Systems (IMNS), Materials and Processes (IMP), and Multiscale Thermofluids (IMT).

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