Undergraduate Teaching

Course overview

Course overview

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The undergraduate engineering course is organised in four parts, each taking a year. Each year has three terms, two of eight weeks of formal teaching and one of seven weeks. The periods of formal teaching and examinations in the third term vary from year to year.

Course structure diagram

NB. An exchange with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is running for the final time in 2016-17.

Assessment , progression requirements and industrial experience

Part IA and IB students sit Tripos examinations at the end of the Easter term. Part IIA and IIB students sit them at the start of the Easter term. Continuous assessment by coursework is used together with the examination marks for classing the students at the end of each year.

Progression requirements are set by the Faculty Board.  Students may not take the same part of the same Tripos more than once.  Students must also fulfil the industrial experience requirement.

The Engineering Department has a commitment to inclusive teaching.


Lecture courses

Experimental work


Part I

(two years)


General engineering for first five terms, no choice.


Sixth term: elective lecture courses

Mechanics, structures, materials, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, electrical engineering, electronics, information, control, mathematics

Approximately two 2h laboratory experiments per week covering all subjects, plus:

Engineering drawing exercises;


Projects: structural design; Integrated Electrical project; integrated design project ‘Robot lab’; integrated coursework ‘Buildings in earthquakes’; mini-project ‘Materials characterisation’.

Part IA: Four 3h examination papers, no choice of questions.

10% credit from experimental work.

Part IB: Mainly 2h examination papers, choice (broadly) four questions out of six. 15% credit from experimental work

After Part I: specialise into engineering area of choice, or keep a broad focus

Engineering areas:

Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering; Mechanical Engineering; Bioengineering; Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering; Energy, Sustainability and the Environment; Electrical and Electronic Engineering; Electrical and Information Science; Information and Computer Engineering; Instrumentation and Control.


Part II Engineering: Two years

Part IIA


Choice of 10 modules out of 45

16 hours of lectures per module

Labs / coursework associated with each module. Two projects in Easter Term.

1.5h examination paper for each module.

30% credit from experimental work.

Part IIB


Choice of 8 modules out of 75

12-14 hours of lectures per module

Modules may include coursework.

Individual project runs through the year.

1.5h examination for some modules; others are assessed by coursework. 43% credit from project.

Graduate with Honours degrees of Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Engineering (MEng)


Parts IA and IB (first and second years)

During the first two years of the course students study substantially the same subjects. These extend across the whole range of engineering and include mechanical, electrical, information and civil engineering, design, manufacture and management, together with the mathematical and computing skills that underpin much of modern engineering.

Parts IA and IB provide a coherent basic course of the principles underlying engineering science as a whole. Although Part IA is not designed to be taken alone, undergraduates may change to other subjects after one year, and indeed they must do if they wish to take the three-year course leading to the Chemical Engineering Tripos.

Parts IIA and IIB Engineering and MET (third and fourth years)

At the end of their second year students decide which Tripos to prepare for in their third and fourth years. It is straightforward to choose the Part II of either the Engineering Tripos or the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET), both of which are based on the first two years of the Engineering Tripos and are offered in the Department.

Instead, they may decide to change department to read Computer Science, Management Studies or indeed any other subject for which they are qualified. A small number of students may spend their third year on one of the student exchanges.

Part II Engineering

Students staying with the Engineering Tripos specialise in a chosen engineering area. During the first two terms of Part IIA they take ten modules, at least six of which must be from one of the specified Engineering Areas. The third term is devoted entirely to two projects chosen from a wide range of available topics. In Part IIB students take eight modules, at least four of which must be from one of the specified engineering areas. They also undertake a major project that occupies about half of the total time throughout the year.


Students taking MET specialise completely in manufacturing engineering and management. They all take the same course in both Part II years. In Part IIA they study five subjects and undertake one major project, all in the Department in Cambridge. In Part IIB they take six modules in the Department together with five projects in industry, one of which is a long project occupying eight weeks. In both years there are a number of industrial visits, culminating in an overseas tour at the end of Part IIB.

What do Engineering students graduate with?

The Engineering Tripos is an Integrated Masters, a four-year degree which extends undergraduate studies to Masters level. Students who successfully complete all four years of the Engineering Tripos will graduate with the following qualifications:

  • BA (Hons) degree - students receive a transcript and a class for each year (IA, IB, IIA), but no overall subject or classification
  • MEng - for the fourth year (IIB)
  • Cambridge MA - the MA (Cantab) is awarded to students 7 years after their first term of residence.

The BA (Hons) degree

No official class is assigned to the overall degree issued by the University of Cambridge. Instead, each Part of a Tripos is self-contained and you obtain separate results for each one: there is no averaging out for a final degree. You may have heard the phrase "a double first", which means that a first class was achieved in two sets of examinations corresponding to two different Parts of Triposes.

Also, your degree certificate will not state the subject(s) that you have studied: the degree you receive is the BA degree. You do not, for example, get a BA in Engineering but you could take Part I of the Engineering Tripos and Part II of the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos and thus qualify for the BA degree. The University will provide you with a comprehensive transcript listing the papers you took and the results obtained to supplement your degree certificate.

In exceptional circumstances, for example where there is satisfactory evidence that a candidate has been hindered by illness or other grave cause, the University might declare you to have deserved honours.

Students who do not reach the honours standard may be awarded an Ordinary BA Degree.

The Cambridge system is unusual and can be confusing to potential employers who may ask for your overall degree class and subject.  We advise that you specify your grades for each Part of the Tripos and explain that the University does not aggregate the results for each year into an overall class.

This information is adapted from a statement on the University's CamDATA website.

The MEng

Students who successfully complete Part IIB receive the MEng.  The MEng is unclassed (though there are Distinction and Merit categories).  The MEng is accredited by a number of professional engineering institutions.  For further information see the accreditation of the MEng.

The Cambridge MA

In most UK universities, the Master of Arts is a degree awarded by examination. At Cambridge, the MA is conferred by right on holders of the BA degree of the University and on certain other senior members and is not available as a postgraduate qualification.

If you hold a Cambridge BA, you may proceed to the MA not less than six years from the end of your first term of residence, providing that you have held your BA degree for at least two years.

This information is extracted from the University's guidance on the Cambridge MA

Further information


Last updated on 13/03/2017 16:01