For Undergrads, Prelims, Part I

The objectives of the Department of Materials at Oxford University are to produce world class graduate materials scientists and engineers, and to conduct world class research into the manufacture, structure, properties and applications of materials, for the benefit of the UK and world community.

The Department of Materials at Oxford is regularly graded one of the best materials departments in the UK, rated top in The Guardian league tables 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. 

In the UK Government's most recent assessment of research excellence in UK universities, the 2014 REF, Oxford Materials was one of the top-rated materials departments in the country. 98% of our activity was judged to be in the highest categories of excellence [ Grades 4* & 3*; respectively 'world-leading' (60%) and 'internationally excellent' (38%)]. 90% of our 'impact' was judged to be 'world leading'.

The Department provides teaching for two undergraduate courses:

  • Materials Science (MS)
    - formerly known as Metallurgy and Science of Materials
  • Materials, Economics and Management(MEM)
    - jointly with the Department of Economics and the Said Business School

Details of the structure of lectures, practicals, tutorials and examinations, together with library, computing, career guidance, safety, counselling and other support facilities are available in the course handbooks.

The academic year is divided into three terms; each including an 8-week programme of lectures, practical work and tutorials. For an MS student the typical working week consists of 10 hrs of lectures, scheduled in the mornings, and 6 hrs of practical classes, scheduled in the afternoons. Each student also has one or more tutors from their own college who depending on the year of study provide typically 12-16 hrs of tuition per term - usually to pairs of students, with each hour of tuition requiring typically 6-8 hrs of work in preparation. Since these formal commitments total some 30 hrs per week, a key features of this system is that there is a lot of flexibility for students to organise the rest of their study and other activities. This requires that students develop self-discipline and organisational skills! For MEM students, core Economics and Management lectures begin in the 2nd and 3rd years, with a choice of courses provided in the 4th year.

In addition to the weekly routine of lectures and tutorials covering the work which will be examined in the final examinations and the continually assessed practical classes, there are additional projects that must be undertaken as part of the degree. These projects include: a business plan, a team-design project, a characterisation or materials modelling module and mini-project and reports on industrial visits. The business plan project is supported by attendance at the Said Business School for an Entrepreneurship lecture course, as well as tutorials from a business consultant and is completed by MS students in their second year. The team-design project is run in the first 2 weeks of the third year and is taken by students from all three courses who work together over a period of two weeks. Recent projects have included: an electronic book, a new EM mounting stage, an improved paintball gun loading mechanism and new materials for an improved boat lift at Foxton Bocks. To raise their experience of industry, MS and MEM students must attend at least 4 industrial visits and submit reports on these. These visits are a mix of Departmentally-run trips, attendance on the student-run Industrial tour, and independent trips organized by the student.

Each year there are also a number of lectures given by speakers from industry, which further help to put the subject of materials science into an industrial context.

Materials teaching in the MS 3rd year consists of lectures that are themed into 3 blocks (Metals and Alloys, Functional Nanocomposite Materials, and Non-metallic Materials). MS students choose two blocks to study through the Michaelmas and Hilary terms and sit two Options Papers as well as completing the Characterisation or Modelling module. MEM students choose two blocks and take one paper, studied in the Hilary term. They do not participate in the Characterisation or Modelling module.

During the fourth year MS students undertake an eight-month full-time research project for Part II. The results of this project are written-up as a 12,000 word (maximum) thesis, which is followed by an oral examination. Most students find this a particularly worthwhile and enjoyable part of the course.

The MEM Part II consists of a 24-week management project, normally carried out on placement in industry, followed by a further 2 terms in Oxford studying in economics or management, and the Materials Options paper.

For MS students the practicals marks other coursework elements and project marks add-up to 50% of the total course. For MEM students the equivalent figure is 26%. 51% of the MSM programme is Materials Science, the remainder a mixture of Economics and Management.