Electronic Engineering today in the UK

The UK has always been an attractive destination for the brightest overseas students wishing to study electronics, either through a taught course, or by research.

However, choosing the right University for either undergraduate or postgraduate study is a daunting prospect, made particularly difficult for students from overseas, who do not always get the chance to visit the University of their choice prior to the start of the course.

Fortunately. there are several ways to find out more about foreign Universities in order to make an informed decision.

The first is from the University’s own undergraduate and postgraduate prospectus, which gives listings of the courses on offer, admission requirements, accommodation facilities and the location and type of University.

Exhibitions or international offices have staff trained to represent their University, in order to provide one-to-one information on any problems or enquiries which international students may have.

In addition, league tables are used to represent data audited on teaching by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with equivalents for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Institutions are marked on important aspects of their teaching and curriculum, including content and organisation of courses, student progress and achievement, and support and resources.

Awards for teaching standards can be won in open competitions, such as the Queen’s Anniversary Prize, given every second year for specific activities in the Higher Education sector, with about 20 prizes awarded. Other awards sponsored by the EU, the Department of Trade and Industry and international journals and magazines indicate the quality of a Department.

A successful course will no doubt have attained high standing in such award and audit schemes, indicating a quality department which will offer much to the international student.

In addition, a successful University will offer the results of its research involving the student during their time at the institution, whilst working closely with the leading industrial players in their specialist area, such as Satellite Engineering, Communications Systems Engineering, or Vision Speech and Signal Processing.

Members of staff will be supported in their department by research associates and students, pulling together under strong leadership, both in classes and individual tutorials.

During 1993-5, the UK’s Office of Science and Technology sponsored a major Technology Foresight exercise, the outcomes of which were over 300 recommendations of research areas, where concerted effort now would help position the UK to strong international economic advantage in the years 2010-15.

Several universities, therefore, play a leading role in Technology Foresight Initiatives - mobile communications, digital broadcasting and multimedia, and in silicon microelectronics. These initiatives involve new forms of research consortia, industry led, but with the participation of the key UK university research groups (typically 4-6 universities in each sector).

Industrial recognition is another indication of quality. The large teams in which students carry out their research ensure that specialist advice is on hand at all times, and the stimulation of new ideas is part of the air that is breathed.

The scope for radical thinking and new solutions is protected, but without the need for an ivory tower. The engineering disciplines of completing projects successfully, on time and within budget, is an important feature of the research with industrial partners. Students will get exposed to this from the first day, and encouraged in continuing such policies.

An example of typical student projects is that of Surrey University’s unique Centre for Satellite Engineering Research. This, combined with Surrey Space Technology, has launched 12 micro satellites, and is currently controlling and monitoring data from 8 of these satellites in orbit around the earth. Discipline and skill is required, as delays in construction resulting in a missed launch are not an option!

At a time when the international mobility of students is at an all-time high, and internationally recognised centres of excellence are winning more than their share of the research cake, Departments of Electronics and Electronic Engineering in the United Kingdom are happy to have their work and achievements sought after against all comers as the cream of the crop.

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