What makes the Cambridge Engineering course so special?

Having chosen Engineering, you don’t have to specialise further during the first two years of the course. This gives you time to make an informed decision about which area interests you most and best suits your academic strengths, whilst providing a firm grounding across the whole breadth of the course. For your final two years you will specialise into a professional engineering area, with most of you remaining within the main engineering course, but some moving into Manufacturing Engineering (see MET below). Those remaining in the engineering course choose an Engineering Area, selecting core modules in Mechanical, Civil and Structural, Energy, Aerospace, Electrical and Electronic, Information and Computer, Electrical and Information, Instrumentation and Control or Bioengineering. But you can if you wish keep a broad range of interests by choosing up to 40% of your courses from outside your own specialism. Besides all the engineering courses, a range of topics in management, business studies, economics and language are offered. When you graduate, you have the same detailed knowledge and understanding as someone who studied your specialisation from the start at another university, but you also understand its context within the field of engineering. To learn more about the course, go to the Department website.

Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET)

The Manufacturing Engineering course at Cambridge is a unique two-year programme, covering the whole range of technical, organisational and economic aspects of industrial engineering. You learn about how products are designed and made, how factories and businesses operate, how to get people to do what you want them to do, and how the finances work. Lecture courses are complemented by design and project work, a structured set of industrial visits and a programme of personal and business skills development. In the final year of the course you undertake some projects in companies, putting what you have learnt into practice. When you finish the course you are much sought after for demanding jobs, not only in manufacturing industry but also in other branches of engineering, consultancy or commerce. You will find more about the course here.

Chemical Engineering

If you are interested in studying Chemical Engineering you will apply to study either Engineering or Natural Sciences in your first year. You can find detail about the course on the website of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and Newnham’s advice to prospective Chemical Engineers here.

Why choose Newnham for Engineering?

About 26% of the 320 engineering undergraduates in each year are women. Current students comment particularly favourably on the encouragement they receive in Newnham’s supportive atmosphere. By choosing Newnham, you gain the same educational experience as everyone else, with the added advantage of the excellent library facilities offered by the College.

How many students take Engineering at Newnham and what options do they choose?

We aim to take about eight students a year, but numbers do fluctuate. Students spread themselves quite evenly through the different areas of specialisation.

How will I be taught at Newnham?

Your teaching is divided between the Engineering Department and the College. Lectures, examples classes and laboratories are in the Department, but small-group teaching (supervisions, often called tutorials at other universities) may be either in College or in the Department. On weekday mornings you generally have four hours of lectures and laboratories. You usually do laboratory work in pairs; in your first two years you will normally have a partner from Newnham. Some laboratory sessions continue in the afternoon, but most afternoons are free for private study or other activities. Supervisions are most often scheduled in the afternoon or early evening.

There are normally two students and one supervisor, and supervisions last one hour. In them, you work through problem sheets set by lecturers, and your supervisors help you to gain a full understanding of the lecture material. In the first two years, all your supervisions are in Newnham groups with carefully-chosen supervisors who include Newnham Fellows and graduate students.

Once you have specialised in the third year, supervisions are department-based, and you may be partnered with students from any other college.

Are there any exchange programmes with other universities?

The Engineering Department has academic relationships with a number of international universities that may be able to offer undergraduates the chance to experience a different academic culture, typically after their third year.  Current programmes are under review, and more details will be available over the coming months.

Can you tell me more about the Engineering Fellows?
  • Dr Claire Barlow is a materials engineer, specialising in manufacturing technologies and sustainability.
  • Dr Alice Moncaster is a structural engineer specialising in different aspects of sustainable construction.
  • Dr Jossy Sayir works on information theory and has a project with the European Bioinformatics Institute on data storage on DNA.
What jobs do Newnham Engineering students go on to do?

A degree in engineering makes you very attractive to a very wide range of employers who will appreciate your specialist knowledge coupled with your well-developed problem-solving skills. Newnham students go on to rewarding and challenging jobs in all branches of engineering. A recent graduate working in construction industry won the Young Structural Engineer of the Year award; another is working in the technical department of the BBC. Some start their own companies, others take the opportunity to use their expertise in developing countries. Not all stay within engineering – the lure of highly-paid jobs in finance or consultancy takes some to the City, for example. And a proportion of graduates continue for higher degrees such as doctorates, either at Cambridge or elsewhere in the world. A steady stream decide to enter teaching, sometimes directly from University but more often after working for a time in industry. More information can be found here.

Are there any A-level subjects that are particularly useful?

Maths and Physics A-level (or equivalent) are essential; Further Mathematics is strongly recommended. The course is mathematical and very analytical so the more maths you have done before you start the course, the more enjoyable it will be. Applied Maths is particularly helpful, since it provides the foundations for the Mechanics part of the Cambridge course. Details of which topics in Pure Mathematics are most relevant can be found on the Engineering website.You will need Chemistry A-level if you are applying to study Chemical Engineering. More detail about academic requirements can be found here.

Can I take a gap year?

A gap year spent doing something which broadens your experience is encouraged: the greater maturity and independence you have before starting the University course, the better. The Year in Industry is one of the organisations which can set you up with a placement, or you can apply directly to companies. Another worthwhile thing to do is to travel and work abroad for a year. But you should only aim to take a gap year if you have definite ambitions and plans for what to do: it’s important not just to sit about at home!

How should I prepare for interview at Newnham?

Engineering applicants for entry in 2017 will be required to take a pre-interview written assessment, for which you have to register by 15 October.

If you are called for interview at Newnham you will then normally have two technical interviews. We’re interested in finding out whether you have the aptitude and enthusiasm for a demanding University course, rather than whether you can remember what you’ve been taught at school. In the interviews, we will discuss some issues relating to engineering and mathematics, but it will be a dialogue rather than a quiz. We want to find out about you as a person, as well as exploring your academic potential. Most people quite enjoy the interviews! In summary, you can best prepare for the interview by being yourself. Try to arrive in the interviews relaxed and alert, and ready to think hard about a range of technical issues.

Where can I find out more?

Look at the Engineering Department website and see what is going on in the Department. Come to one of the Department Open Afternoons (normally the first Thursday and Friday in July), have a look around and talk to people. Come to an Open Day at Newnham. And if you have specific questions, do contact either the Engineering Department (contact details on website) or Newnham College admissions.

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