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Engineering Research Degrees - PhD

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An engineering PhD can be a pathway to a career in a wide range of related jobs, including in management roles – or in the academic world. If you’re already in such a role, the PhD is a major piece of personal development, developing new knowledge and building skills for your next career step. Your engineering PhD study builds on our expertise and professional and industry networks....

  • Level Postgraduate Research
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time/Distance Learning
  • Location City Centre
  • Award PhD
  • Start date September 2023, February 2024, May 2024
  • School School of Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Faculty Faculty of Computing, Engineering and The Built Environment

Overview

An engineering PhD can be a pathway to a career in a wide range of related jobs, including in management roles – or in the academic world. If you’re already in such a role, the PhD is a major piece of personal development, developing new knowledge and building skills for your next career step. Your engineering PhD study builds on our expertise and professional and industry networks.

We cover the major aspects of mechanical and electronic engineering and civil engineering. We are interested in interdisciplinary research building links to areas including the built environment, computing, health, law and others.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

A PhD enables you to follow a programme of self-directed, independent study, supported by experienced supervisors who are themselves experts in their area. We may use industry experts to support some projects, and others may be run in full collaboration with an industry partner.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice prepares you for study at this level, as most find it a very different experience from previous taught courses.  Topic-specific training and support is identified and provided by your supervision team and other experts as necessary.

Although you will be developing as an independent researcher, you will be supported both by your supervisors and the wider research community in the School, Faculty and University. There are regular opportunities for you to present and share your work with other research students and staff.

Why Choose Us?

  • Expert staff supervisors, keen to help their students succeed
  • Excellent links with industry, both to support your research and your career progression
  • Research grounded in traditional areas of engineering but also keen to build cross-discipline links to shape future materials, technologies and products
  • Encouragement and support for you to publish your work
  • Opportunities to support and teach other students, including bringing your new research into their education

A range of specialist labs/workshops, software, facilities and working environments tailored to specific project needs

Studying with us during the Covid-19 pandemic

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses. Should the impact of the pandemic continue in future years, any additional or alternative arrangements put in place by the University will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

Open Days

Join us for an on-campus Open Day where you'll be able to explore our campus and facilities in person. You'll be able to hear more about your chosen subject area from our academics.

Register your interest

Research Interests

Our engineering staff work collaboratively with business, industrial and academic partners to develop ‘real world’ applied solutions across a range of themes. Currently we are engaged on research projects developing a new generation of robust sensors, inclusive autonomous transport systems, autonomous robotics and drones, and sensor sensor networks (IOT).

Staff are also actively engaged in the development of advanced manufacturing systems to deliver lightweight vehicles, cost effective metal forming processes and sustainable systems. A key aspect of this work is its connection to industry and business which is also addressed by our logistics and supply chain team.

Current interests

We welcome enquiries relating to mechanical, electronic and civil engineering.  Current research degrees in Mechanical and Electronic Engineering are focused on, Automotive Engineering including autonomous vehicles and drones, Sensors including IOT (Internet Of Things), Manufacturing including sustainability and logistics and supply chain management.

We find it most effective to work with inquirers to focus their research ideas before a formal application is made.  You can contact either individual staff or the School's Director of Research Degrees, Professor Peter Larkham.

Areas of research in which staff are currently active include:

  • Nano-fluids and heat transfer
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Sensors and remote health monitoring
  • Fluid and structure mechanics
  • Multiphysics fluid structure interaction (FSI)
  • Numerical modelling such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
  • Non-linear control of fluid flow
  • Knowledge-based engineering
  • Wind engineering
  • Microfluidics
  • Nano-medicine
  • Urban drainage systems
  • Hydrological performance
  • Fibre reinforced composites
  • Polymer science
  • Product life cycle assessment

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2023

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  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2024

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Award: PhD

Starting: May 2024

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

International students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2024

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2024

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

 Applications to start this course in September 2022 are now closed, you can apply to begin in February 2023

Entry Requirements

To apply for our engineering PhD research degree you should have, or expect to be awarded, a Masters degree in a relevant subject area from a British or overseas university.

Exceptional candidates without a Masters degree, but holding a first class or upper second class Bachelors degree in a relevant subject area, may be considered.

We also welcome enquiries from potential PhD researchers with appropriate levels of professional experience.

We find it most effective to work with inquirers to focus their research ideas before a formal application is made.  You can contact either individual staff or the Faculty’s Director of Research Degrees, Professor Peter Larkham (peter.larkham@bcu.ac.uk)

Alternatively please send us an initial PhD enquiry containing your brief PhD research proposal (1000-2000 words), and/or any questions or queries you may have.

We will review your initial enquiry to ensure that your research proposal compliments one of our PhD research interests and if so we will ask you to make a full application.  We are unable to progress any proposals that do not have a clear and close link to our interests.

Additional costs

As each PhD is an individual research project, it is impossible to specify precisely what additional costs (fieldwork, travel etc) may be incurred. Any potential costs should be identified in your application.

Although the School and Faculty has some limited financial support towards the direct costs of research (e.g. attendance at conferences and workshops, etc.) this is allocated on a competitive basis and you may need to supplement this. 

Course in Depth

A day in the life of a PhD student

If you're considering doing a PhD there's probably a lot of questions going through your mind: how am I going to pay for it? Should I quit my job? Will I cope with the workload? But most importantly, what is it really like? Karen Patel, a full time PhD student, shares her experiences of juggling life, a part time job and her studies. Read more in Karen's blog.

The PhD Journey

Full-time students are expected to complete within 3-4 years, whilst part-time students may take 4-7 years. In your first year (two years for PT students) you will spend time reviewing the field, refining your research proposal and projected plan, and developing key topic-specific research skills. You will be supported in this through attendance at the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, which runs for the first semester of your studies.

Your progress is reviewed every 6 months, with alternating ‘light-touch’ written reviews with your supervisors and annual reviews involving a written paper, presentation and interview with an independent panel of experienced supervisors.

Your second year (years 3 and 4 for PT students) is likely to be spent undertaking in-depth research (data collection and analysis) in your chosen area, with the third year (years 5-6 for PT students) involving writing up your results and presenting them in a suitable format (usually a written thesis of some 80,000 words).

Once you have submitted your thesis the examiners usually need 6-8 weeks to read it before the viva (oral) examination, after which there is likely to be a period for corrections / rewriting before successful completion and award of your PhD.

Throughout your studies we aim to develop your research skills, and support you in presenting your work through publication and conferences. We expect your participation in the range of research-related activities within the Faculty, contributing to building our research community. You many get opportunities to teach and support other students. We also encourage you to think of your career path and development in the longer term, as well as the first post-PhD job.

Modes of Study

Our PhD programmes are offered full-time or part-time. These modes of study ensure that we can create a PhD research plan around your lifestyle needs, even if you are in full-time employment or overseas.

Full-time PhD Research: three to four years

As a full-time PhD research student we expect you to spend much of your time using facilities on campus and contributing to our research culture.  You may spend periods of time away from campus collecting data (‘fieldwork’ on site or using libraries and other facilities). You will usually spend at least 37 hours per week engaged in research.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 36-43 months.

Part-time PhD Research: four to seven years

You would choose part-time PhD research if you opt to study while in employment or if full-time study is impractical.

You will be encouraged to use the campus facilities and attend research events when you can and may often work from home.  Electronic contact with supervisors is possible but face-to-face contact has great benefits.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 48-72 months.

How the PhD is assessed

Your progress is reviewed every 6 months, with alternating ‘light-touch’ written reviews with your supervisors and annual reviews involving a written paper, presentation and interview with an independent panel of experienced supervisors.  The annual reviews will assess whether you continue with your PhD studies, or whether lack of progress means that you should transfer to an MPhil, or withdraw from your study.

Once you have submitted your thesis the examiners usually need 6-8 weeks to read it before the viva (oral) examination. The viva commonly lasts between 1 and 3 hours and questions can be wide-ranging about your research, how it fits into your discipline, and its contribution to knowledge and impact.  The examiners’ recommendation is based on a combination of the thesis and viva performance.

Following the viva there is likely to be a period for corrections / rewriting before successful completion and award of your PhD.

Employability

The PhD is a well-established and valued academic qualification within the sector and is highly likely to enhance career prospects. For those wanting to follow a career in teaching and researching in Higher Education, a PhD is highly desirable.

After the PhD

From the very start of your PhD journey we encourage you to think about what happens after you graduate: how the PhD will contribute to your career plan from identifying and getting your first job to beyond.  We use the VITAE research career development framework to help you plan for your future.

Industry links

We have close links to a wide range of organisations in engineering-related industries.  PhD students have benefited from these links in, for example, PhD funding (for example a project with the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility at Harwell, Oxfordshire) and access to key individuals and data (work on aero engine design and materials with Rolls Royce). In motor vehicle related projects we work with companies ranging from JLR to Morgan Cars. We are working on autonomous vehicles with companies including Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises, Fusion Processing, Creative Example and Conigital.

International

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Facilities & Staff

Our Facilities

We are currently undertaking a £340 million investment programme in our facilities, including a major expansion of our City Centre Campus. As part of this, our facilities in Millennium Point have undergone a £6.5 million investment to include a new maker area, engineering labs and equipment.

We have invested in industry-standard facilities to support the practice-based elements of our Engineering courses and give students as much practical learning as possible, to prepare for industry placements and job opportunities after graduation. Students have access to our facilities during classes, and can book out of class sessions with our specialist technicians.

We are a partner of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology (GBSIoT) and have secured £1.1 million of government funding for investment in brand-new Engineering equipment and facilities. Funding of £808,000 from the Department for Education has supported our development of an Electric Vehicle (EV) Test Rig, an Additive Manufacturing Machine (3D printer) and a material testing-split zone furnace.

The GBSIoT has enabled procurement of new technologies for material testing, electronics prototyping and production and 3D scanning to compliment computer aided design for manufacture.

Test Cell Facilities

The University Test Cell Facilities are used to enable:
  • Development and delivery of related CPD, Apprenticeships, Undergraduate and Postgraduate provision. This may include understanding and application of: machine equipment digital control systems, system/component testing and identifying/analysing applicable test specifications/regulations for automotive component verification (including performance data).
  • Development and delivery of research projects to reduce mass, weight, costs, lead times and enhance safety critical products and components.
  • Provision of a service to start-ups and businesses for system/component prototype and end product testing. Example: Pre-testing data analysis for automotive component verification. This may include digital twinning to assist such areas as automotive components/systems testing could give a business the ability to stimulate testing scenarios and uncover data driven options for optimisation of its counterpart in real-time, in-order to introduce improvements in build, efficiency, sustainability or safety.

XYZ Machine Tools

We have invested £420,000 in seven new machines from specialist manufacturer XYZ Machine Tools, including: 
  • Three lathes
  • Two mills
  • Vertical Machining Centre
  • Turning Centre

These machines are used by our students, workshop technicians and engineering staff to develop real-world manufacturing skills. They replicate real-world machinery, so by learning how to operate these machines on our courses, our students can develop skills to use that are needed from employers. 

The lathes and the mills have a shared control system, which allow operators to switch from machine to machine very easily. This feature makes working on them more efficient for students who need to produce a large number of parts in a short space of time.

Environmental Lab

The environmental lab is part of the Centre for Low Carbon Research (CLCR) and is home of the bioenergy and bioprocessing research group at the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment. The suite is divided into three main areas a wet lab/pilot facility a fully equipped analytical suite and a microbiological lab. This newly refurbished facility offers state of the art analysis and testing of environmental samples as well as scientific evaluation of lab scale and pilot scale technologies and processes.

The analytical suite includes a broad range of instruments capable of testing the organic, inorganic and physical composition of samples. We also have instruments to test the composition and energy content of various fuel types.

The pilot facility is industry led and contains a 600 litre photobioreactor provided by our lead industrial sponsor Varicon Aqua Solutions Ltd. This is used to evaluate the cultivation of algae and the opportunities for bioremediation and carbon sequestration. A fully automated dosing system and harvesting and extraction system are also included in this facility

Our microbiological lab is currently used for the evaluation of biogas production from various feedstocks. We have state of the automated biomethane potential testing and we are working closely with major utilities and technology providers assessing feedstock pre-treatments for anaerobic digestion.

Learn more about the Centre for Low-Carbon Research

Makers Space

The Level 4 Makers Space is a bright communal space in Millennium Point in which students can find support in building their projects.

The Makers Space is equipped with a laser cutter, 3D printers, and a variety of electronic components like motion, proximity, humidity sensors, and many more.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Test Rig

The EV test rig enables the latest industry technologies to provide advancements in skills, research, design, development and production including understanding and application of:

  • Machine equipment digital control systems
  • System and component testing
  • Identifying and analysing performance data for verification against automotive industry specifications and regulations.

Hands-on use of the EV test rig and LabVIEW (systems engineering software for applications that require test, measurement, and control with rapid access to hardware and data insights) will enable students to understand and manipulate EV motors, gearboxes, connectors and invertors in order to reduce: mass, weight, costs, lead times and enhance critical safety – achieving automotive industry standards.

Additive Manufacturing Machine (3D Printer)

The additive manufacturing machine (AMM metal 3D printer) will enable students to experience transformation of computer aided design (CAD) from packages such as Autodesk to reality. Pre-processing software Materialise magic will be used to create a support structure to convert CAD files for layer manufacture. The software Eplus 3D EP Hatch is then used for process planning to optimise printing path settings based on data that has been sliced using epi to achieve the best printing results.

The AMM produces complex, intricate shapes and geometries for one-offs, prototypes and short runs to industry standard. The machine opens up new design possibilities to students across a multitude of applications, including: aerospace, biomedical, automotive, tooling and research.

The addition of the 3D scanner will enable students to bridge the gap between 3D scanning and CAD for applications:

  • Reverse Engineering
  • Convergent modelling
  • Synchronous modelling
  • Simulation
  • Generative design
  • Additive manufacturing

Students will use the EXscan Pro software package to run scans to provide real-time feedback for scanning data capture to generate a point cloud. EXscan Pro is then used to convert data to a preferred CAD file.

Material Testing - Split Zone Furnace

The testing System provides up to 100 kN (22,500 lbf) Force Capacity and 1200°C with variable temperature control on products and materials: Tensile, Compression, Bend tests.

Simulating working conditions pre-production to advance materials and component properties verification reducing product failure and recall. Students will experience use of Bluehill software for the purpose of machine control, data analysis and reporting of tests performed on metal for measurement to key international standards.


Engineering facilities

Our staff

Professor Peter Larkham

Professor of Planning

Peter holds BA and PhD degrees in geography from the Universities of Manchester and Birmingham, and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Historical Society.  His research focuses on how cities change, in terms of their physical form, design and conservation.  His most recent work is on reconstruction...

More about Peter