University’s Chemical Engineering students receive the gold standard in education.

Posted on 16th October 2017

Chemical Engineering students at the University of Chester are getting an outstanding engineering education, according to a number of recent accolades received by the Department.

•	University of Chester student, Christian Mamwell, on the left, holds some of the product manufactured as part of his project. Rob Watkins from Croft Additive Manufacturing supervises.
• University of Chester student, Christian Mamwell, on the left, holds some of the product manufactured as part of his project. Rob Watkins from Croft Additive Manufacturing supervises.

The University recently received an unconditional accreditation from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) for its BEng degree in Chemical Engineering. This is an internationally recognised ‘gold standard’ - only 60 institutions in the world share such an accreditation (and more than half of them are outside of the UK). With the first Chemical Engineering degree cohort only graduating this November, it has been achieved at the earliest opportunity.

“Our staff and students have worked really hard over the last four years to get to this point,” said Professor Steve Wilkinson, Head of Chemical Engineering. “We were particularly pleased that the IChemE has backdated the accreditation to include our first cohort of students who started in September 2014. This will give them the best possible start in their careers and their journey towards chartered engineer status. Since it has more than 40,000 members, many working in industry, we are proud that the IChemE were really impressed by our strong links with industry through visits and industrial placements.”

Other examples of best practice singled out for particular praise by the IChemE assessors were:

  • ‘provision of well-serviced and modern laboratory accommodation, Library and IT facilities’
  • ‘excellent opportunities for students to hone interpersonal skills starting in their first year of study’
  • ‘excellent use of visiting staff to assist the teaching of subjects such as safety and process control’.

The accreditation is the latest in a number of endorsements for the Department, which recently scored 100% student satisfaction in the 2017 National Student Survey (NSS) – both at subject level, and for the BEng/ MEng in Chemical Engineering. The NSS is the annual student opinion poll organised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The top score places them in the number one slot in the UK for student satisfaction in a Chemical Engineering course.

On top of that, Chemical Engineering students at the University of Chester are also to benefit from a prestigious teaching programme, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Less than three years since it was first taught at undergraduate level at the University, the institution’s Faculty of Science and Engineering has been awarded almost £30,000 by the Academy to support a Visiting Professors’ teaching programme in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Professor Wilkinson, Head of Chemical Engineering, added: “We are delighted that the leading body for UK engineers of all disciplines has recognised our commitment to enhancing our teaching, using input from industry. When we designed our courses from scratch in 2013, we built them around industrial input so that all our students get an understanding of what it means to be a professional engineer from day one. In a very short time frame, we have also succeeded in creating one of the best placement programmes for engineering students anywhere in the UK.”

Seán Moran from Expertise Limited, who is the new Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Process Design for Employability, said: “I am honoured that the Academy has accepted Chester’s bid to develop its Chemical Engineering course with my input. Initiatives like Chester’s, bringing practical professional skills into engineering degrees, are essential to producing industry - and future-ready - graduates. I am looking forward to further enhancing the employability of Chester’s graduates by showing them how to design process plants in the way professional engineers do.”

As part of their degree, students from Chemical Engineering and the other engineering disciplines in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, carry out industrial work placements. These enable them to experience engineering – and potential future roles - in a work setting. One of the companies involved is Croft Additive Manufacturing Ltd, who are based in Warrington. Neil Burns, Director of Croft Filters Ltd and Croft Additive Manufacturing Ltd., said: “We’ve hosted four University of Chester student placement projects over the last two years and we really value this input for our business as a high technology, manufacturing company. The students (from both Chemical and Mechanical Engineering) help us to challenge the existing status quo and provide opportunities for change. But it’s certainly a two-way street and really highlights the importance of collaboration in the industry - the students learn a huge amount from us to complement their studies. They return to university several inches taller (metaphorically speaking) after working in a commercial environment with our professional engineers.”

“The amount I gained from my placement was incredible,” added engineering student, Christian Mamwell. “To have used computer simulation to reduce distortion in components built via Additive Manufacturing, after only my first year of study, gave me a real buzz.”

Professor Wilkinson added: “This summer, we were also incredibly proud to have our first ‘products’ rolling off our ‘University manufacturing line’, i.e. industry ready engineering graduates! We are very much looking forward to celebrating graduation with our very first graduates this coming November.”