Mechanical engineering excellence: Spotlight on top UK universities

mechanical engineering
Source: University of Surrey

Combining science, maths, and computing, mechanical engineering has built the world around us. From the electric generators and lifts in your office building to the robotic limbs that give new leases of life to amputees, the impact of mechanical engineering on the world is obvious, from the smallest to the grandest scales.

In a changing world, levelling up your knowledge and skills in this field has never been more urgent. With ever-increasing global demand for clean energy, advanced materials and efficient industrial processes, an advanced degree in mechanical engineering is set to not only equip you with the know-how to enter these emerging fields but also boost your professional value as a whole. And it is not just a pathway to a great career — it directly results in meaningful contributions to some of the biggest problems facing the world today.

Here are three UK universities with exemplary mechanical engineering programmes every ambitious mechanical engineer should consider: 

mechanical engineering

At the University of Surrey, students are trained to work efficiently and collaborate effectively no matter which degree programme they choose in the school. Source: University of Surrey

University of Surrey 

Teaching students to be professional engineers from day one, the University of Surrey’s School of Mechanical Engineering Sciences shows you how to apply your newfound knowledge to solve real engineering problems. This practical application of theory – enhancing knowledge and professional skills – is the school’s education philosophy and it gives graduates an edge when applying for jobs. By actively engaging in projects, you’ll develop your knowledge and understanding while gaining practical and interpersonal transferable skills that’ll equip you to become professional engineers or scientists when you enter industry, academia or the public services. Along the way, there’ll be no shortage of wonder at the capacity of human innovation in applying science and engineering to the efficient and sustainable use of the resources of nature to the uses of humankind.

The Advanced Mechanical Engineering MSc is centred around equipping you with the advanced knowledge, skills and experience to create solutions that are safe, efficient and sustainable. The programme is centred around your group and individual projects, where you’ll enhance your communication, collaboration, creative and critical thinking skills – setting you up for the demands of an applied job in industry or doctoral training. Compulsory courses for this MSc include Stress Analysis, Fracture Mechanics and Finite Element Analysis, with optional modules in Turbulence, Advanced Manufacturing, Materials & Manufacturing Sustainability, Environmental Aerodynamics and Wind Power, Spacecraft Structures and Mechanisms, and Intelligent Vehicle Design allowing you to tailor your experience to your future career aspirations.

The Mechanical Engineering MEng features a core design thread for all four years (five years with professional training). “The Professional Training placement at Surrey was a major factor in deciding to come here,” says graduate Abigail Lamb. “The university provides so much support in finding a placement, which in the long term is incredibly beneficial for finding a job.” Students can select modules based on different learning themes, including Energy, Materials, Automotive, Design and the Environment. Learning takes place in industry-standard facilities, including a state-of-the-art Design Centre, materials testing laboratories and one of the UK’s national environmental wind tunnel facilities.

This, paired with internationally recognised academics, is no wonder that Surrey is loved by graduates and ranks second in the Southeast and third in the South of the UK for the number of graduates in high-skilled jobs. Whichever mechanical engineering programme you opt for — also check out Aerospace Engineering MEng and Biomedical Engineering MEng — students here get all they need to succeed long after graduation. 

mechanical engineering

The University of Edinburgh is ranked #16 in the QS World University Ranking 2022. Source: University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh 

The University of Edinburgh is world-renowned for many things: ranked #22 in the QS World University Ranking 2023, fourth in the UK for research power, and famous alumni that include Nobel laureates and Olympic athletes.

One of the largest, most innovative and highly-ranked schools in the university, the School of Engineering was ranked third in the UK in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) review. Programmes here enable students to use their skills, intelligence and creativity to tackle any engineering challenge — many of whom have higher-than-average economic impact when they enter the workplace.

Engineering has been taught at Edinburgh since 1673. Today, the school houses over 1,300 students pursuingboth undergraduate and postgraduate courses — all of whom are taught by around 85 permanent members of expert staff and a number of visiting academics that are globally reputed.

The school offers four options for mechanical engineering degrees: Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (BEng Hons), Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (MEng Hons), Mechanical Engineering (BEng Hons), and Mechanical Engineering (MEng Hons). In Year Four of the Mechanical Engineering (MEng Hons), students can spend one semester completing a research project within an industrial company or at an overseas university. Worth 50% of their marks for the year, these placements have included Edinburgh Designs, 

Ferrari, Jaguar Land Rover, Leonardo, Lotus F1 Team, and Touch Bionics. Alternatively, students can choose to remain in Edinburgh and complete a broader range of optional courses.

mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineering students can join Cardiff Racing to participate in the design, development, and testing of a proven Formula Student racing car. Source: Cardiff University

Cardiff University

With an emphasis on providing a diverse and inclusive learning environment, the School of Engineering at Cardiff University is a strong advocate for women in STEM. The university has also won the Bronze award for Athena Swan for their dedication to helping women achieve their full potential in the field. The Athena Swan Award is a testament to a higher education’s achievements in achieving gender equality.

Postgraduate programmes here include Architectural, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Mechanical and Medical Engineering. They balance a rigorous curriculum with research elements to enable students to enhance their engineering knowledge and skills. 

The Mechanical Engineering (MEng) degree, in particular, features a flexible course structure and professional accreditation by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Energy Institute on behalf of the Engineering Council. Students get to develop their professional skills through group projects with students from other disciplines and join Cardiff Racing to participate in the design, development, and testing of a proven Formula Student racing car.The university also has strong industrial links, connecting students to companies, universities, and researchers across the globe. Today, there are over 200 collaborative research projects and 40 externally funded collaborative projects that have been executed in partnership with both local and international companies and institutions.

“We aim to provide a supportive, friendly and stimulating environment which allows students to fulfil their potential while producing world-class research that benefits the local, national and international community,” says Professor Jianzhong Wu, Head of School.

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