I left school after completing my A-levels and started work with the John Lewis Partnership at a local retail store. I was unsure of what I wanted to study or my future career path, but I knew I wanted to avoid the dreaded student debt.
After several years, however, I found myself unstimulated and unmotivated in my job and started to plan how I could move my career forward with A-levels and practical experience within the retail sector under my belt. This led me to rethink continuing my education at degree level which was something I had never wanted to do as a teenager or young adult and I would now have to complete as a mature student.
Having been out of education for seven years, I had begun doubting my academic ability to deliver at degree level in subjects such as maths, science or psychology, which I was taught during my time at school. I wanted to find a degree that would encompass several areas of previous learning and allow me to build on my knowledge from there. Luckily for me, my father has been in the fire industry my whole life, and in 2004 he completed his degree in Fire Engineering at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), which is how Fire Engineering was first brought to my attention. Following my research, it became apparent that there are very few Fire Engineering courses available throughout the UK, therefore I looked further into the UCLan website to find out more about the courses they offered and whether I met their entry requirements. Each year UCLan hold a series of open days and I would strongly recommend anyone considering embarking on the degree course to attend one of these days to meet the UCLan team and to see the world-class facilities first hand. I attended such an open day, and this helped make the decision to apply for the course very straight forward.
BEng (Hons) Fire Engineering
The course that best suited my personal circumstances is the BEng (Hons) Fire Engineering degree course at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) which can be completed in three years as a full-time student or, as I chose, four years part time. UCLan is recognised as a centre of excellence for fire-safety engineering, being accredited by the Energy Institute (EI) on behalf of the Engineering Council as meeting the academic requirement for registration as a chartered engineer when combined with accredited further learning. The course is also accredited by the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) as a Recognised Educational Programme (with academic exemption) for Member Grade (MIFireE).
The format of the part-time course sees you undertake 4.5 modules a year. In the first year the syllabus consists of:
- Introduction to Combustion and Fire (1.0)
- Energy Transfer and Thermodynamics (1.0)
- Buildings, Materials and Fire (1.0)
- Engineering Analysis (1.0)
- Skills for Fire Studies (0.5)
During my first year I completed three assignments, one each for three whole modules, whilst the fourth was coursework based and the half module was graded by the completion of a computer test.
UCLan has a well-equipped, modern Fire Engineering Laboratory with facilities comprising of state-of-the-art fire equipment used by experienced academics and is available for research, training and primarily for teaching. The laboratory work is broadly based to develop an understanding of the how a material behaves in a fire situation and includes specialist facilities for both fire-safety engineering and fire chemistry. The laboratory is equipped for a range of small- to intermediate-scale fire tests, backed by state-of-the-art analytical and material characterisation facilities. A number of experiments ranging from investigation of fire retardants to the combustion properties of materials can be undertaken in the laboratory to support the fire courses, allowing the students to gain hands-on experience of British and European Standard test methods during a structured series of practical laboratory sessions.
Not only this but, during my first year, UCLan has constructed a brand-new building dedicated to Engineering Excellence which I hope to be able to explore and learn from once I start my second year.
Why study this course?
Fire Engineering studies the science of fire, the effects it has on people/society, the built environment and the mechanisms for prevention/suppression of fires. This course highlights fire in the context of buildings and infrastructure, and the technology for predicting the development of fire and designing to mitigate its effect. The application of Fire Engineering is multi-disciplinary (every area of academic study plays a role in this understanding from law to chemistry) and it is envisaged that, as in the professional world, you will carry out project work, which will bring together the Fire Engineer and other members of the design and management teams.
BEng (Hons) Fire Engineering is supported by an established research base and builds on the training and educational programmes offered by organisations such as the Institution of Fire Engineers.
I was attracted to the course as it appeared to incorporate several subject areas for study such as maths, science, psychology and law which really appealed to me. Acceptance on to the course required 96 UCAS points including maths and science. However, the great thing about this course is that UCLan offer flexible admissions, which means if you don’t necessarily fit the academic requirements they will still look at each person as an individual, taking into consideration their academic studies and any relevant experience gained within the industry. Having the option of either a full-time or part-time learning programme was ideal for me as I was keen to continue working whilst studying for my degree.
The first year
For part-time students the course is split into four two-week teaching blocks at the university campus consisting of lectures and lab work, with assignments and coursework to be completed in between the modules. The final block includes examinations covering the whole year’s syllabus. The first block can be quite daunting when you have been away from study for a number of years and meeting new colleagues for the first time. You quickly realise that the students come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and most of them, if not all, are undertaking the course as mature students. During the first week any outstanding administration is completed, and you quickly get into the teaching syllabus and the collaborative team spirit. Any initial trepidation soon disappears as the course quickly gains pace and for anyone considering undertaking the degree I would strongly recommend focusing on the positives of the course and to take that leap of faith and get involved.