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Chemical Engineering

The course aims to produce engineers that meet the current needs of the process industry with a strong emphasis on applying science to solve real-world problems.

Chemical Engineering is a broad discipline involving elements of chemistry, physics, biochemistry, materials science and mechanical engineering, and applying these to concepts such as economics, safety, the environment and sustainability.

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Chemical Engineering at Cambridge is a four-year course. Students join the Department after studying one year on either the Natural Sciences or Engineering course. Both these routes provide equally suitable preparation and the choice is personal.

Chemical engineers are involved in the conversion of raw materials into valuable products, usually on an industrial scale. Examples include the refining of oil to produce petrochemicals, the production of plastics, the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, food processing, and wastewater treatment. Many chemical engineers now work in the area of biotechnology where biological organisms are used to perform the desired transformations (e.g. to make a particular molecule).

It is possible to graduate with a BA degree after three years. However, virtually all students stay for the fourth year leading to the BA and MEng degree (progression to the fourth year is dependent on satisfactory performance). The four-year course is accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers, meaning that after graduation you can apply for Chartered Engineer status once you have four years of relevant experience without taking further exams.

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Chemical Engineering via Engineering

A typical offer is A*A*A at A level (or equivalent qualification). Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry are essential. It is helpful to take Biology at AS or A2, or Further Mathematics at AS or A2.

Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences

A typical offer is A*A*A at A level (or equivalent qualification). Mathematics and Chemistry are essential. One or more out of Physics, Further Mathematics and Biology are desirable at AS or A2-Level.

Chemical Engineering students need to have an understanding of mathematics and the fundamentals of chemistry and physics. They also need an enquiring mind and an interest in applying science practically to solve real-world problems.


Applicants invited to interview will be asked to sit a written assessment on the same day as their interviews. Applicants normally have two or three interviews. These will usually involve the Director of Studies in Chemical Engineering, and the Director of Studies of the first-year subject chosen. In interviews, we are trying to assess academic potential. For instance, we will test an applicant's understanding of material covered at school leaving level and then see if the applicant can apply that knowledge to solve a problem.

The Director of Studies is Wolfson Fellow Dr Mick Mantle.

Find our more about the Chemical Engineering course on the department website, and the University Undergraduate Prospectus.