Clare College Cambridge

Studying Engineering at Clare


Studying Engineering at Clare


Clare likes to accept about 10 students each year, depending on the quality of the applicants. The College's policy is to aim for an overall balance of Arts and Science undergraduates, without quotas for specific subjects: so applications for Engineering are considered on an equal footing with those for other science subjects. This means that we are able to take a larger number of Engineering students in years when the quality of the applicants is especially good.

If you think this course may be for you, we would be delighted to receive an application from you. To find out more, read on down this page - and why not come to one of our Open Days

The workload associated with the course typically consists of about twelve one-hour lectures plus about eight hours of practical work per week during Full Term. This involves spending four hours each weekday morning in the Department, plus some additional time on one or more afternoons per week. In addition the Department issues 'examples papers' for all of its lecture courses, which you work through in your own time - this might occupy about two hours each evening. Finally, the College arranges three or four one-hour 'supervisions' per fortnight, where problems with the lecture courses and examples papers can be discussed.

A supervision runs for one hour, and this is when we can give you really detailed help with all aspects of the course, as well as discussing the wider context of the examples questions to show their relevance for professional Engineers.

By comparison with Engineering at other Universities, the Cambridge course is a fairly theoretical one, and is highly regarded among both industry and other academic institutions worldwide. The department also provides support to students to find work placements during the summer vacations.

Course Outline

Teaching is provided through a mixture of lectures, practicals, projects and supervisions, and in Year 1 you can typically expect around 22 hours of teaching each week. You’re assessed each year through coursework and written exams.

A few students graduate after three years with the BA (Honours) degree. However, most continue to the fourth year (Part IIB), successful completion of which leads to the BA and MEng degrees. Progression to Part IIB is dependent on achievement in Parts IB and IIA.

Year 1 (Part IA)

The broad foundation of the first two years (Part I) gives you an understanding of the basic principles of a wide range of subjects, together with an appreciation of the external pressures under which these ideas are likely to be applied.

In Year 1, you take four papers and sit a three-hour written exam in each:

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Structures and Materials
  • Electrical and Information Engineering
  • Mathematical Methods

You also undertake several coursework activities and projects, on topics including structural design, product design, presentation skills, drawing, laboratory experiments and computer programming.

Year 2 (Part IB)

You study eight papers on core subjects at a more advanced level:

  • Mechanics
  • Structures
  • Materials
  • Thermofluid Mechanics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Information Engineering
  • Mathematical Methods
  • Business Economics

In the third term, you select two topics from seven engineering disciplines plus a language option. These topics emphasise engineering design and introduce the more specialised work of the third year.

Coursework includes laboratory experiments and computing exercises. Several experiments are linked around the common theme of earthquake-resistant structures. A highlight of the year is the compulsory integrated design project where you work in teams to design and build robot vehicles which are then tested against each other.

Year 3 (Part IIA)

Professional specialisation begins in earnest and you study 10 papers from an extensive portfolio, from which a core is associated with one of the following disciplines:

  • Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering
  • Bioengineering
  • Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electrical and Information Sciences
  • Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Information and Computer Engineering
  • Instrumentation and Control
  • Mechanical Engineering

Alternatively, you can choose (General) Engineering, in which there are fewer restrictions on paper combinations.

In addition, you take an Extension Activity (selected from several topics, usually relevant to your professional discipline) and, in the final term, choose two from a variety of design and computer-based projects or projects in a foreign language.

Year 4 (Part IIB)

Progression to Part IIB is dependent on achievement in Parts IB and IIA, and successful completion of Part IIB leads to the BA and MEng degrees.

In Part IIB, further specialisation is possible and you select eight papers from nearly 100 options which vary each year. These papers benefit from the Department’s research and are taught by experts in the particular field. As a result, you graduate with a Masters-level appreciation of theory and practice in your chosen area.

A major individual project occupies about half of your time. Many projects are associated with current Department research and have direct industrial input and application. Recent projects have included:

  • super-tall timber high-rise design
  • nanotubes and graphene for polymer optoelectronics
  • a fitness predictor for racing cyclists
  • use of thorium in a PRISM reactor
  • whole-system design of tidal turbines
  • remarkably shaped structures
  • preliminary design of a solar electric vehicle
  • strategy development for fuel restricted F1 races
  • medical imaging and 3D computer graphics
  • the aerodynamics of power kites

Reading Lists

Click here for a list of recommended books.