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Scanning electron microscope image of a 0.15mm diameter DNA sensor
The steam-driven Turbinia

The College

St John’s College currently takes up to 15 undergraduates each year to read Engineering: about one tenth of our total numbers. They come from a wide variety of schools and backgrounds, from all parts of the UK and abroad, and form a friendly and supportive group.

We have twelve teaching Fellows whose collective expertise covers a broad scope, and who are responsible for supervising our first and second-year students for most of their courses. Third-year and fourth-year supervisions are arranged on a University-wide basis but, given our size, the likelihood of being supervised during the third and fourth year by one of our Teaching Fellows is high.

The College provides excellent facilities for those reading the subject to support the lectures and laboratory work arranged by the University Department of Engineering. The College Library is well stocked, and there are generous book grants available to all undergraduate students. St John’s has a thriving College Engineering Society (known as the Parsons Society) and Engineers invariably make a major contribution to all aspects of College life.

The Courses

The Engineering Department in Cambridge is independently rated as world-class in UK Research Assessment exercises and is officially ranked as delivering the highest possible category of quality of teaching. While not wishing to sound complacent, St John’s is pleased to note that we are generally acknowledged as delivering comparable quality at the College level.

Years 1 and 2

Tomorrow’s engineers are likely to work in an era of ever more rapidly changing technology. Flexibility and the ability to integrate ideas from different branches of engineering will be vital skills. The first two years here (Parts IA and IB) form the broadly based course, which is widely respected and very important to the training of modern, top-flight engineers. The third and fourth years provide the opportunity to specialise in a particular branch of engineering.

Years 3 and 4

Specialists in manufacturing engineering take the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos in their third and fourth years. All other specialist areas (Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Aeronautical, Environmental, Electrical, Electronic and Information Technology etc) are covered in Parts IIA and IIB of the Engineering Tripos. Chemical Engineering specialists normally change to the Chemical Engineering Tripos for their second and subsequent years.

All these courses involve a total of four years study for the BA and MEng degrees*. Provided that the appropriate specialist options are followed in the third and fourth year, those completing the fourth year via the Engineering, Chemical Engineering or Manufacturing Engineering Triposes will have satisfied the academic requirements for corporate membership of the appropriate engineering institutions, and can proceed after further professional experience to become Chartered Engineers. Part IB of the Engineering Tripos can also be followed by the one year Management Studies Tripos (leading to a BA degree after a total of three years study).

Growing out of our belief that the education of Engineers should contain an international flavour, the Department has extensive language learning facilities and a variety of language courses available. We are also strong supporters of the Cambridge-MIT Institute, which organises third year undergraduate exchanges with MIT. At present, about one in twelve Engineering undergraduates will spend their third year at MIT or other universities worldwide.  Please note that the Engineering MIT Exchange is being discontinued from 2017/18.  Other Engineering exchange programmes are unaffected by this decision.

The Chemical Engineering Tripos is also taken by students who start by reading the Natural Sciences Tripos; the question of whether to prepare for this subject by reading Engineering or Natural Sciences for the first year is one which must be considered on an individual basis, and on which we are happy to give advice.

*second class Honours at the end of years two or three are a University requirement for entry to the fourth year and MEng degree.

Directors of Studies

Dr Tom Hynes - Engineering (Part I)
Dr Michael De Volder - Engineering (Part II)

UCAS Code: H100

Entry Requirements

Mathematics and Physics are essential, Further Maths very useful.

Application to St John’s

Applicants apply for Engineering from a wide spectrum of educational backgrounds. If you are following an A-level curriculum, the conditions of the offer will be that you obtain specified grades at A-level: typically A*A*A in suitable subjects.  We regard Mathematics and Physics as essential A-level subjects, to be supplemented by another subject (e.g., Chemistry, Economics, or a language).  Further Mathematics to at least AS level is very useful, but not essential.

Advice on choice of Mathematics modules for engineering can be found on the Engineering Department’s website.  Applicants taking single Maths A Level or who do not perform as well as others in our Maths Test at interview, may be asked to take STEP papers I or II.

If you are following a non A-level curriculum, the Admissions Tutor can be contacted for advice on our likely level of offer.

Pre-Interview Assessment

Applicants for Engineering will need to sit the University's Pre-Interview Admissions Assessment, more information on which is available here.


Those who are invited to attend for interview will have three interviews: one with the Tutor handling your application and two with Teaching Fellows in Engineering. The aim of these interviews, which last between 20 and 30 minutes each, is to find out from you at first hand about your motivation and aptitude for the course you have chosen. We try to conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner, and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them. The Director of Studies will naturally want to discuss some technical problems with you and we will inform you about how best to prepare for these when we call you for interview.

Ana Groom - Engineering
Studying engineering at Cambridge is a great way to get breadth from the word go. Over the first two years, you have the opportunity to study a variety of topics ranging from mechanics and materials to electronics and information engineering, providing a great range of skills and understanding. The department organises lectures and labs, and sets ‘Examples Papers’ weekly which contain problems to...
Henry Cross - Engineering
I knew I would study engineering from a fairly early age; to me it is the perfect combination of intellectual challenge and practical applicability.The course at Cambridge is distinct for several reasons. The first two years cover all areas of engineering (mechanical, civil, information, etc.) and no specialisation is required on application. This equips students with the fundamentals of all...
'I grew up in Leicester and went to school there. The 6th form I attended was reasonably sized with over 500 pupils per year. I had never properly considered a career path until I was 16, but opted to do A-levels instead of the vocational courses that we were offered, as I had a vague idea that I wanted to go to university.Taking A-levels turned out to be a good idea, and taking Further...
Engineering Subject Centre Student Award 2010Franz Ronay was runner up in the Engineering Subject Centre Award 2010.Every year the Engineering Subject Centre provides the chance for all students studying a discipline related to engineering at undergraduate level in a UK higher education institution to submit opinions and experiences in a 1000 word essay.  This year students put themselves in...

Further Information

The University Engineering Department publishes a booklet entitled Undergraduate Engineering at Cambridge University, which gives fuller details of the Engineering Tripos and related courses. Details of the Department's Open Day may be obtained from the Teaching Office, Engineering Department, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1PZ, tel: 01223 332625, or by email to: teaching-office@eng.cam.ac.uk.  No advance booking is necessary. You can also visit the Engineering Department web site at http://www.eng.cam.ac.uk/admissions/.

Engineering Course Video, courtesy of the University of Cambridge