Working my way through the Engineering course structure

Tomas Main

What makes the engineering course structure at Durham University different?

Durham is one of the few universities in the UK that offer a General Engineering course. This is offered so that Durham University graduates are well-rounded engineers that can tackle a great variety of problems!

In the first two years of the course, rather than concentrating on just one stream of engineering, we got to study subjects from four different streams; civil, mechanical, electronics, and electrical engineering. Only at the end of the second year do we choose what stream we would like to specialise in for our third and fourth years.

The first two years can be challenging, since there isn’t a great deal of flexibility in choosing modules, and the workload is quite high. However, I personally found that I really enjoyed the challenge and that the broader scope of knowledge I have developed has been very useful.

This is especially apparent when doing work for my design module, where I have to work in a team throughout the year to design a new product. I had this module in my second year and third year, and in both years I found it really useful to be able to look at the different aspects of the problems presented to us, and grasp the relevant concepts, even if they are from a field I haven’t been concentrating on for the design.

For example, last year my team designed a recycling apparatus for electric vehicle batteries. While I mostly concentrated on the electronics aspect of the design, I was still able to carry out strength simulations thanks to my mechanical engineering modules.

How does general engineering help you decide what type of engineering you would like to specialise in?

When beginning my final year of school, I had not even considered going to university, never mind studying engineering. This meant that I did not have a great deal of time to get work experience under my belt or to do extensive research into what type of engineering I would like to do.

For my other university applications to UCAS, I felt like I was going in a little bit blind. I sort of felt like aeronautical or mechanical engineering might be cool to study, but I did not exactly know what to expect from either.

Hence, I choose general engineering here at Durham as my first choice, hoping this course would allow me to sus out the different streams before committing to one.

I must say, I haven’t been disappointed. My first two years gave me the opportunity to develop an interest in energy generation, and to realise that electrical engineering is something I am good at. I never would have expected this in my school years…

What’s it like being able to focus on the topics you’re passionate about?

It feels quite rewarding to get to focus on electrical engineering now that I am in my third year. I’ve found that while the subject matter has got more difficult this year, my interest in each module has increased with it, which really helps keep up my motivation.

In the fourth year, I will get to specialise further, with my intention being to concentrate on renewable energy engineering.

I am really excited to learn more about this ever-growing industry, and all-in-all, I’m very grateful that due to my course, I’ve been able to realise that I can go into a field of engineering where I will have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the earth, through helping either develop or spread renewable energy systems.

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Our Department of Engineering offers a wide range of Engineering pathways, is recognised as ones of the leading centres of research in Engineering in the world and is ranked 5th in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2022. Students benefit from excellent employment opportunities as well as interdisciplinary research and national and international cooperation.  

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Tomas Main

My name is Tomas, I’m a third year engineering student at Hild Bede. I’m originally from the UK, but grew up in Cyprus. Outside of my course, I love playing a spot of college football every now and then, and I am also a part of Hild Bede environment committee the Durham Student Union Assembly.

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