When building a legacy, organisations expect to be remembered for their deeds, not their words – and the School of Engineering is proud to be making a positive impact on both industry and society.
With around 1,400 undergraduates and 400 postgraduates – over 50 per cent of whom are international PhD and MSc students – the school is global in its outlook and respected worldwide for its pioneering research. The Research Excellence Framework (REF), which ranks all UK universities, recognises this, with the 2014 assessment placing Cardiff first for “impact” across every discipline. “That acknowledges research that has benefitted communities by creating jobs or generating wealth, by making things safer or improving quality of life,” says Professor Carol Featherston, Director of Research for Engineering. “These things are important to us here.”
Part of Cardiff University, the School of Engineering’s research is divided into three wide-reaching areas – health, technology and the digital world; mechanics, materials and manufacturing; and energy and environment. “It isn’t about blue-sky thinking,” says Featherston. “We see the benefits of the work we do here.” Researchers in Cardiff ’s Geoenvironmental Research Centre (GRC), for example, recently explored ways to safely dispose of nuclear waste, developing a computer programme to simulate the behaviour of a nuclear waste repository. This is now being used in several countries.
STRONG INDUSTRY LINKS
Contributing to industry is crucial, so the school works closely with a number of companies, including major global players such as BP and NASA. Industrial partners are often involved in teaching, and specific projects can also unite students with potential future employers. Cardiff’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) – a group of around 40 industrialists and government representatives
– meet regularly to assess the activities of the school and offer advice from the coalface. Further, collaborative research and development takes place between industry and postgraduates. “That brings real industrial experience,” says Featherston, “working on real problems.” At LAS Recycling, for example, Cardiff graduates recently helped to develop a new recycling plant.
Another source of pride for the school is the quality of its research, which was also highly ranked by the 2014 REF. “We came top in the UK in Civil Engineering,” says Featherston. “That means that a significant proportion of our research is world-leading and internationally recognised, with our papers published in high-quality academic journals.” The research environment is also a key factor in the school’s success, with top-quality labs, state-of-the-art facilities, dedicated engineering library, and opportunities for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) contributing to a supportive and vibrant environment for postgraduate study.
LEAVING A LEGACY
Such aspects enhance student satisfaction as well as graduate employability. “Our industrial advisors tell us what industry wants and we’re able to feed that back into our courses, so our graduates are sought-after by employers.”
They’re happy too. “We’re a friendly and supportive school, and we look after our students,” says Featherston. “And, because all of Cardiff ’s engineering students are based in one accessible, city-centre location, multidisciplinary projects working across engineering disciplines happen quite naturally. We’re like a big family.”
And this, she hopes, will become the school’s legacy: a busy, productive environment where students and staff support one another to make a genuine difference to industry, the economy and society.