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How we teach

At UCL Engineering, we teach our undergraduate programmes in the context of our award-winning teaching framework, the IEP.

 

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What is the IEP? 

The IEP is an award-winning undergraduate teaching framework shared by most UCL Engineering undergraduate degree programmes. It is not a programme that you apply to directly, so here’s precisely what it means for you and your chosen degree.  

The IEP emphasises creativity, communication, interdisciplinarity and teamwork by learning through projects and the social context of engineering. Engineering is about people, and the IEP helps you to explore, build and design engineering solutions that make a difference. 

The IEP is completely embedded in the degree programme of your choice. When you say yes to UCL Engineering, you are also saying yes to engaging in the many innovative IEP learning opportunities endorsed by MIT as “an exemplar of excellence in engineering education”. 

At UCL, you will specialise in the areas of engineering that excite you the most, right from the very start of your studies. The IEP approach allows you to work and learn beside students from other disciplines at key points throughout your first three years of study. This opportunity to learn from each other and share interests and insights is truly invaluable.  

Unique to the IEP, is your chance to personalise your engineering degree. It’s what makes it fun, challenging and extremely rewarding! You can take three, linked elective modules in a subject area e.g. intelligent systems (AI), environmental engineering and modern application of engineering mathematics. These modules grouped together are known as an IEP Minor Pathway. This won’t change your degree title, but crucially, it allows you to broaden and customise your UCL degree.

Discover more about the IEP Minors in 'How is the IEP part of my chosen programme?

UCL Engineering undergraduate programmes that follow the IEP 
UCL Engineering or associated undergraduate programmes which do not follow the IEP 

 

Each of these degrees are either already highly specialised, have input from other UCL faculties and/or departments, or are for particular group of students (i.e. medical students in the case of the Intercalated degree). 

How will I be taught? 

You will learn in a variety of ways, including: 

  • lectures  
  • self-study  
  • real-world projects through IEP Scenarios and IEP Challenges 
  • laboratories 
  • workshops and tutorials 
  • career-based facilitation, tutoring and mock employment activities 
  • group work  
  • flipped lectures (you’ll review materials before class as homework so that lesson time is dedicated to discussion, interactive exercises and guidance from your lecturer) 

You will also spend time in experimental or computer labs learning key technical skills. Through a series of authentic team-based engineering projects, you’ll receive a unique opportunity to apply your technical knowledge through the process of engineering design. You may also have the chance to go on field trips and work with/be mentored by our industrial and community partners  

Why teach in this way?

Good engineering happens when people with complementary skills work together to solve problems.  

We’ve designed the IEP teaching framework as a response to the changing nature of 21st century engineering and industry requirements for innovative, curious graduates who are not only technically brilliant in their chosen discipline, but also: 

  • have a wider knowledge base 
  • are used to working with engineers from other areas as well as non-engineers 
  • effectively communicate and promote their ideas 
  • make an impact with minimum guidance and resource. 

Who will teach me?

Staff from every UCL Engineering department contribute to the IEP. Most of the teaching on your IEP modules will be taught by academics from your core programme department. Interdisciplinary IEP elements are delivered by leading academics from across the faculty. Our departmental colleagues embrace a shared attitude towards collaborative, problem-based, creative learning.

How is the IEP part of my chosen programme?

Engineering Challenges Module

Who is this for? BEng/MEng Biochemical, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electronic & Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students and BSc/MEng Computer Science students. 

Engineering Challenges takes place in Term 1 of your first year, and comprises two Challenges - team projects that last for half a term. 

During these five-week-long challenges, you will work in a team to investigate a problem and create a solution. You will have other lectures during this time, and will spend four hours in class each week on the Challenge. 

The Challenges are themed around broad issues which have a global impact, taken from the UCL Grand Challenges topics e.g. sustainability and global health. 

Challenge 1 - is discipline-specific and taught by your ‘home’ Department. Your team will consist of students from your programme cohort. The aim of this Challenge is to give you further insights into cutting-edge innovations within your chosen discipline.     

Challenge 2 - is multidisciplinary. You will work with students from different engineering disciplines, and be taught by academics in partnered departments. This Challenge gives you a chance to work with students from another discipline on a ‘real-world’ project. On the first year interdisciplinary Challenge project, each discipline has a distinct part to play, becoming truly effective when working in conjunction with other disciplines.  

"The unique components introduced by the IEP - for example, Challenges and How to Change The World - gave me early exposure to working in teams comprising of individuals from different disciplines and backgrounds. The various activities helped me work on my leadership skills in multidisciplinary environments, where it was crucial to be able bridge the gaps in knowledge between members in order to complete given tasks. This experience helped me stand out as a candidate when applying to summer internships or work placements."
Akmal, MEng Mechanical Engineering, 3rd year 18/19
Design & Professional Skills I & II Modules

Who is this for? BEng/MEng Biochemical, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electronic & Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students and BSc/MEng Computer Science students. 

Design and Professional Skills, or DPS, takes place in Terms 1 and 2 of your first and second year. The module includes a special project in your first week – the brilliant Pebble in the Pond.  

DPS is taught in discipline cohorts – so you study with your programme peers. Everyone studies much of the same materials and curriculum, with plenty of discipline-specific adjustments taught with real-life examples.   

In DPS, you’ll learn about communications – and why this is so important to engineers – ethics, teamwork and leadership, the engineering design cycle and technical skills specific to your chosen degree programme, such as engineering drawing and CAD (computer-aided design), programming and risk assessments.   

Design & Professional Skills includes Scenarios – week-long team projects where all your other lectures stop, and you have one focus: a team-based technical engineering design project. Scenarios are taught by your department, and give you the opportunity to apply your Design & Professional Skills knowledge to issues relating to your subject area. Scenarios also give you a real insight into how engineers work. This experience helps you to stand apart from engineering students at competing universities. Our students say that Scenarios are intense, but they love them! 

"You have a whole real-life project, and you’re expected to complete it by the Friday [having only been given it the Monday before]. It’s challenging because it’s a lot of work, and initially, especially on the Monday you’re a bit everywhere. But by the end of the week you get to see a project come together, and I think that’s really exciting."
Zara, BEng Chemical Engineering, 2018
Mathematical Modelling & Analysis I and II Modules

Who is this for? BEng/MEng Biochemical, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electronic & Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students.  

Please note BSc / MEng Computer Science students take a different mathematics module (see the UCL Computer Science prospectus pages: BSc Computer Science / MEng Computer Science).  

You will take Mathematical Modelling & Analysis in Term 1 of your first year and Terms 1 and 2 of your second year. You will have mixed cohort lectures and department-based tutorials and workshops. In your first year you will also get timetabled, tutor-led MATLAB sessions. Everyone studies the same theory, and has a chance to apply and understand that theory in areas relevant to their chosen engineering degree programme.  

Mathematical Modelling & Analysis I reinforces the engineering utility of mathematical concepts. You will study topics including: 

  • engineering calculus,  
  • engineering uncertainty,  
  • how to analyse data,  
  • matrices
  • vectors
  • statistics.

Mathematical Modelling & Analysis II integrates mathematics theory and engineering practice. You will study topics including: 

  • partial differential equations,  
  • series and transforms,  
  • advanced matrices 
  • probability and statistics. 
IEP Minor Modules

Studying an IEP Minor is compulsory.  
 
The IEP Minor pathway allows you to choose either a completely different subject area,  or an in-depth study of an aspect of your own discipline. Many of the IEP Minors are either aligned with cutting-edge UCL Engineering Research or innovations in industrial engineering sectors. 

Please note: the IEP Minors do not currently change your degree title. 

What is the IEP Minor? 

The IEP Minor is unique in UK engineering education. These are a set of three modules grouped together. You’ll take one module in your second year, and two modules in your third year.  

The IEP Minor Pathway enables you to customise your chosen engineering degree programme, follow your passions and gain insight into specific engineering sectors. Such experience really will give you an advantage in a competitive jobs market. 

Prior to the IEP Minor Pathway, timetable clashes meant picking electives was difficult for our students. By grouping elective modules together, we have allowed students to gain in-depth knowledge of certain subject areas and ensure timetable issues are reduced. 

One of the best things about each IEP Minor is that you'll work and learn with students from other disciplines, building your interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary knowledge. 

You can find out more on the IEP Minor Pathways available to students starting their second year of studies this autumn in the video below. Individual IEP Minor Pathways may be withdrawn or added in subsequent years. 

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Watch video in Youtube

Who is this for? BEng/MEng Biochemical, Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electronic & Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students, BSc/MEng Computer Science students, BSc/MSci Management Science students. 

MEng Mechanical Engineering with Business Finance students do not have an IEP Minor choice option. The Business Finance element already allows you to customise your degree. 

If you take an MEng, and choose to take your third year abroad, you may not be able to complete your third year IEP Minor modules.     

We have tried to make every IEP Minor available to everyone, but there are some prerequisites and exclusions which will be explained to you in your first year. If your core degree programme already covers the subject area, you will not be able to take the corresponding IEP Minor. Some IEP Minors may require certain A-levels, or equivalent.  

What is the IEP Minor selection process? 

At the end of your first year, you express your 1st and 2nd choice of IEP Minor Pathway. At the start of your second year, you confirm your choice. 

“My IEP Minor in Engineering and Public Policy allows me to analyse the impact of technology from a political standpoint and how it fits in the policy sphere. While my degree equips me with the technical understanding of a certain technology, my IEP Minor opens up my horizons, encourages me to think beyond normal engineering assumptions and ultimately understand how power and influence work.”
Sarah, Chemical Engineering, 3rd Year 18/19
How to Change the World 

Who is this for? BEng/MEng Biochemical, Biomedical, Chemical, Electronic & Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students, BSc/MEng Computer Science students and BSc/MSci Management Science students (plus other students not on IEP programmes).  

How to Change the World is a unique, intensive, two-week team-based project that requires our students to develop creative and technically robust solutions to 21st-century global challenges.  The projects are supported by industrial partners and often have government involvement. It is taken at the end of your second year and is considered to be the ‘grand finale’ to the set of eight IEP projects (i.e. Challenges and Scenarios) that are at the core of the first two years at UCL Engineering. 

How to Change the World is run by UCL STEaPP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy), and emphases the social context of engineering. It provides another opportunity for problem-based learning by solving problems whilst working in teams, and applying your knowledge as you're learning it. It is so much more than just another project! It gives you the chance to set yourself apart and work on an interdisciplinary project that’s aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Working in facilitated workshops with industry and/or community partners, your team will plan and design an engineering solution to a socially complex real issue assigned to you. On the final day, you’ll pitch to a panel of academics and external and internal (UCL) experts. In recent years, our prestigious external partners have included the UK Government Department for Transport, ARUP, Engineers without Borders UK, Motorola Solutions and Lloyds Banking Group.

Visit @uclengineering on Instagram for our student takeover (#HtCtW in the highlights). 

"The IEP has played a fundamental role in building my teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills, especially through Scenario weeks and How to Change the World. I have had the opportunity to apply my engineering knowledge to real-world problems, and to propose innovative solutions. This has been enjoyable, and has helped to expand my creative side by allowing me to think outside the box."
Simran, MEng Chemical Engineering, 3rd year 

Beyond The Curriculum 

As well as studying the above modules and projects – which all include some form of assessment – as a UCL Engineering student on a programme that follows the IEP, you’ll come across additional elements that aren’t part of the curriculum as such, but are still important, and will still influence your student journey. 

Strengths Finder 

Learning about yourself while you are at university, is such a key part in graduating as the engineer. From your very first day, we encourage you to start thinking about the type of engineer that you want to be, and how your strengths can contribute positively to your development. As an undergraduate engineering student, you will find yourself studying, working and possibly living in new environments and with people who are outside your usual friendship groups. You will be expected to develop your communication skills so that you can effectively give or receive instructions, collaborate with your peers and interact with your academic tutor or an industrial client. All of which, we understand can be challenging. 

That’s why the IEP introduces the CliftonStrengths for Students tool to first year students in the first week of term. CliftonStrengths helps develop self-awareness and provides you with a vocabulary to sensitively explore and discuss how people may inspire or frustrate you. This is exceptionally useful when it comes to working in teams – in university, and also in industry. 

Strengths is a positive psychology tool widely used by employers. The tool provides a set of descriptions that help each person understand how they think, connect with others and get things done. Through the IEP’s active learning approach, we help you to reflect on how you achieve, and through this reflection you will learn to appreciate and value different styles of contribution to work.  

The IEP works with a Certified Strengths Coach who supports our teaching and learning staff to get the most out of this programme. 

Text by Dr Jan Peters (external consultant). 

IEP Ambassadors 

Our wonderful IEP Ambassadors are students from every programme on the IEP and believe in our aims and ethos - that engineering is a people-centred, creative discipline that works best when it is diverse, inclusive and considers social contexts.    

Since the IEP was first implemented by UCL in 2014, we have also benefitted from crucial feedback from our IEP Ambassadors. The IEP was partially set-up to respond to industry requirements for adaptative, engineering graduates with strong communication and problem-solving skills, who are flexible enough to create positive change. Having a solid, consistent student viewpoint from our IEP Ambassadors helps ensure that the IEP stays innovative and dynamic for all students and equip you for a life after university.

If you join us and decide to become an IEP Ambassador, you may get the chance to work on projects involving social media, video production, pre-19 STEM engagement, events management and student engineering conferences.    

Please note, a competitive application process must be passed in order to become an IEP Ambassador. 

Benefits of the IEP
  • Are you interested in applied and industry-aligned engineering?
  • Are you creative, or do you like working in creative environments?
  • Are you interested in more than one area of engineering?
  • Do you like working with people from different backgrounds and specialisms?
  • Do you like communicating your ideas and solutions?
  • Are you intrigued by the idea that engineers and engineering can change the world? 

If you answered yes to any of the above, this way of learning is for you

A Leader in Engineering Education