What are the pros and cons of General Engineering vs one discipline?

(62 Posts)
ErrolTheDragon Fri 15-Jul-16 23:07:59

I'm trying to understand why a few (good!) unis do General Engineering MEng instead of offering separate EEE, Civil, Mechanical etc. EEE alone seems like a very broad subject nowadays - so, how can a GE course avoid being a bit 'jack of all trades and master of none'? I guess if someone wants to go into some sort of financial or general management type role after graduation it might make sense, but for anyone who wants to end up as an actual engineer I can't see how it could.

(I'm a scientist rather than an engineer myself

elephantoverthehill Fri 15-Jul-16 23:20:11

www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/eng/study/ug/degrees/ge/

This, I think gives a pretty good explanation. Engineering covers such a huge number of disciplines which I don't think many 18 year olds fully grasp. There are many adults who still think engineering is something to do with an oily rag.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 16-Jul-16 00:10:36

Right...I nearly put in my OP about if the student didn't know which branch to choose, which seems to be the reason they give. And then A broad engineering education provides for a range of career opportunities such as project or contract management within engineering companies or it could enable you to exploit your engineering knowledge in careers such as teaching or journalism.

...rather confirms what I was thinking - breadth but maybe not enough depth? Thanks, that's a useful link.

So... If the student does know which branch and wants to become a professional in that field (ie an accredited MEng leading eventually to becoming a chartered engineer) ... Would it ever make sense to do GE?

BoneyBackJefferson Sat 16-Jul-16 00:14:42

On a slightly different tack, most apprenticeships in large engineering companies require that the apprentice does a set amount of time in each engineering area before specialising. Partially so that they have a choice but also so that they have an understanding and appreciation of each sector.

the offering of a general MEng is similar.

elephantoverthehill Sat 16-Jul-16 00:45:34

Speaking to my Ds who has just finished his first year doing engineering at UWE he has confirmed that that they have done 6 modules. 5 have been GE and the 6th about the field they wish to go into.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 16-Jul-16 01:30:36

The reason I'm asking is that my DD, who has just done AS, is in the throes of open days and weighing up what her 5 UCAS choices should be. She's been pretty much decided that she wants to be an electronic or electrical engineer since she was in about yr 10, has been on a smallpeice course and just done a headstart, runs the robot club etc, quite clued up. So it would seem straightforward that she should just be considering EEE courses except for the fact that a few places - notably Oxbridge , Durham, only do the GE. These universities are obviously excellent, the collegiate style strongly appeals to her but...short terms and less lab time (at Camb anyway, versus other places she's looked at) and less time on her preferred branch .... I can't see how it adds up.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 16-Jul-16 01:33:20

Sorry, it's late - I forgot to say thanks for your insights!thanks

Fuzzywuzzywasabear Sat 16-Jul-16 02:19:40

If she wants to be an electrical/ electronic engineer she should take a degree in that field, general engineering will not be in depth enough for her to work as an engineer if that's what she wants.

With engineering degrees it's best to look for an accredited degree so she needs something accredited by the IET this will make getting chartered easier when the time comes.

I would say she should look at course content over picking a prestigious university, for example the best instrumentation and control course in the country is run by Middlesbrough and kings college London have an excellent engineering facility with a fully operated plant students can use to simulate a real process control environment, Reading has an excellent robotics course...

Electrical and electronic engineering is a very broad field in itself and covers a wide range of differing fields.

If you hadn't guested I specialise in the field myself. grin

Fuzzywuzzywasabear Sat 16-Jul-16 02:22:43

Oh IET = Institute of Electrical Technology their website is really informative and they have advisors who could help focus her field of study.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 16-Jul-16 02:51:32

Thanks fuzzy - that's pretty much what I thought. She's not sure yet of which sub-field will end up being of most interest so is looking at EEE rather than eg just electronics or even more specialised courses at this stage.

Decorhate Sat 16-Jul-16 08:08:13

I studied engineering many years ago. In my home country it wasn't possible to do a general engineering degree. However the two main ones on offer at the time (Civil and Electrical - Electronic) were very broad based anyway. And the two branches had probably 80% subjects in common for the first two years. So going straight into some sort of Electrical/electronic course will still keep her option open.

I would say that in this country, if your Dd wants to work as an engineer rather than use the degree as a stepping stone to something else, or go into academia, then Oxbridge/Durham are not necessarily the best places.

elephantoverthehill Sat 16-Jul-16 08:10:48

Errol what a cool DD you have. Universities will be falling over backwards to have her on their course. We haven't left the EU yet..................

PinkFondantFancy Sat 16-Jul-16 08:13:38

Sorry, most of the advice above is complete and utter junk.

I can only speak for Cambridge but you only study general engineering for 2 years, and you specialise for the final 2. I can guarantee Cambridge gets you more depth in your chosen branch in those 2 years than the others do in the whole degree.

PinkFondantFancy Sat 16-Jul-16 08:15:18

I was doing labs most afternoons, can't imagine it's very different elsewhere. Has she been to any open days?

BikeRunSki Sat 16-Jul-16 08:17:47

If she wants to be an electrical/ electronic engineer she should take a degree in that field, general engineering will not be in depth enough for her to work as an engineer if that's what she wants.

I agree with Fuzzy. I came into Civil Eng by a very roundabout route, I would have saved myself a great deal of time and money if I'd known what I wanted to do and gone the most straightforward/traditional/obvious route.

As your DD knows what she wants to do, there seems little gain in doing something different! I'd focus on finding the most appropriate, acredited course for her.

elephantoverthehill Sat 16-Jul-16 08:22:19

*Sorry, most of the advice above is complete and utter junk.

I can only speak for Cambridge* confused

GreenSand Sat 16-Jul-16 08:37:18

Historically, Cambridge all started "Engineering" but through the years specialised in their preferred field, and came out as a specialist engineer. Is this no longer the case we had an extreme bias to Cambridge graduates at work
Check the degree is acretited with the appropriate Institute for achieving chartered status in the future.
A bit of knowledge of some of the other disaplines can be really helpful when sitting in multidisciplinary meetings - you can keep track of what's going on rather than being compleatly baffled - I could follow the Chem Eng conversations, but the Elec Engs were unfathomable to me after the first couple of minutes - science training here, with some process engineering.

GreenSand Sat 16-Jul-16 08:40:16

Opps, didn't refresh before posting.
I guess it depends if the course results in a degree in General Engineering, which is unlikely to be sufficient to carry out an EE role, or starts with broad engineering, and specialises later on. If this results in an accredited course, I'd have thought it would be OK.

esornep Sat 16-Jul-16 08:45:55

I would say that in this country, if your Dd wants to work as an engineer rather than use the degree as a stepping stone to something else, or go into academia, then Oxbridge/Durham are not necessarily the best places.

Look at the graduate prospects of engineers from Cambridge. Those who want to stay in engineering do fine (or indeed more than fine). Sure, they specialise only for the last 2 years but in reality engineering degrees at other universities also share many modules for the first years. The degrees Cambridge produce are definitely sufficient for accreditation.

I agree that lots of Cambridge engineers don't stay in engineering but go into finance etc but there is no obligation to do so, and a lot of support for industrial internships etc.

Fuzzywuzzywasabear Sat 16-Jul-16 08:47:58

Greensands a good accredited graduate scheme following her degree will help with interdisciplinary knowledge.

The companies I've worked for with the best schemes include some time sat with other disciplines including project management, procurement etc.

A degree is only the foundation, a good graduate scheme post grad is a must.

Pinkfondantfancy respectfully your talking bollocks.

esornep Sat 16-Jul-16 08:51:36

So... If the student does know which branch and wants to become a professional in that field (ie an accredited MEng leading eventually to becoming a chartered engineer) ... Would it ever make sense to do GE?

No, I don't think it would, but Cambridge engineering is not general engineering: it is delayed specialism. Similarly I don't think that people would write that Cambridge chemists are not chemists simply because they did Nat Sci and hence did other subjects as well as chemistry for the first year.

I think quite a few top students do apply to Southampton, Imperial etc for electrical and electronic engineering, as they want to specialise right from the beginning. Fair enough. As a pp said, it can be very useful to have some knowledge of other branches of engineering in your working career, so that might be a reason in favour of Cambridge type courses. On the other hand one or two modules in your first year or so at university doesn't give you a lot of knowledge.

ErrolTheDragon Sat 16-Jul-16 11:23:42

Bugger, typed a long reply and ignored the low battery warning.

Anyway - many thanks to all, some useful insights. The dissent leads me to the encouraging conclusion that she'll be fine either way - she's only looking at IET accredited degrees ( so yes, delayed specialism is apt description). And as to whether she's been to open days - too many imo but she and DH are enjoying them(I've been to a subset) so what the heck. I'm just glad she drew the line at the border and doesn't want to live in London, at least that excludes a few from the deliberations!grin

Cambridge tbh would be a bit of a gamble if she got a offer, and would make choosing the reserve something of a dilemma. But it was frankly seductive and if she wants to give it a shot that's her choice.

Esornap - actually, DH has come across some Cambridge natural scientists who've been rather taken aback by the greater breadth and depth of what he'd learned on a redbrick chemistry degree, that's one of the things that made us question the GE approach coupled with shorter terms.

esornep Sat 16-Jul-16 12:52:20

Well, I am not a chemist so I don't know for sure, but in my own area (maths/physics) I can say for sure that Cambridge Nat Sci physicists are typically way beyond physicists from elsewhere.

QuackDuckQuack Sat 16-Jul-16 13:26:44

Engineers don't work in isolation most of the time. A broad knowledge base followed by specialisation is useful for integrating different engineering specialisms on a project.

I also wonder what proportion of those who take a degree with later specialisation actually follow the direction they thought they'd take. I did a degree that started broad and allowed specialisation later and came out having specialised in a completely different subject to the one I expected to. It was fantastic to have that option, but obviously many people don't want/need that option.

hellsbells99 Sat 16-Jul-16 13:43:41

Errol, we had a similar path with DD2 who is hopefully going to study Mechanical Engineering this September. She turned down her interview at an Oxbridge college as she decided she really didn't want to do GE. She also decided that the option to do a year in industry was important to her, and with the associated help/support in finding a placement etc. She then narrowed it down further by deciding she didn't want to live in London and didn't want to be more than 3 hours from home. Most of the universities we visited had fantastic facilities, formula teams etc.

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