AAAdmissions Blog

This blog is maintained by the Undergraduate Admissions Tutors in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol. Here you will find FAQ answers and news updates on our admissions process. For more information, visit the Department home page or the undergraduate admissions home page.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Break

A very merry Christmas to all 557 of our applicants! (so far)

Applicant and offer numbers are running smoothly and very close to last year's trends so far.  If you're still waiting to hear from us, please be patient.  We will be closed next week but will be making more offers in the new year.

We've had two really good Wednesday taster sessions already and the 2013 Wednesdays have filled up rapidly.  In response, we have made more dates available on-line, which should be open now or very soon.  If you've had an offer but been unable to register for a Wednesday visit, please check your Hobsons' VIP page again.

I look forward to meeting more of you in 2013.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Just one week to go until our first visit afternoon for offer holders on Wednesday 28th. There has been a good uptake but there are still a few places left on this date and the subsequent Wednesday, December 5th. All offer holders are invited.

Our goal for these visits is simple: we want you to get a quick taste of life as an undergraduate here. This includes a short sample lecture on autopilot controls and a tour of our lab facilities hosted by staff members from our three technical disciplines: aerodynamics; structures and materials; and dynamics and control.

Visitors also get a slot to talk one-to-one with academic staff members.  We call this academic speed-dating, because that's what it most resembles. It was an experiment last year and I feared at first that it might turn out to be awkward.  However, our staff are a talkative bunch and seem endlessly able to find common interests with the visitors, so it's worked out well - our problem now is dragging visitors away when it's time for the next part of the itinerary.

Last but most important, there will be lots of our current students around to talk to, plus time when we leave you alone with them.  That's not meant to sound sinister: rather, the point is for you to be confident that you get uninhibited opinions on student life.  I met last Wednesday with this year's student helpers, who span from our second year to our final year and don't seem particularly inhibited anyway, so that shouldn't be a problem.  They are your best source of information about the student experience, so please feel free to ask them about anything from academic workload to social life.

We have over one hundred offers out already and more  in the pipeline, so we hope to see many of you signing up for Wednesdays soon.  Places are limited - it gets congested on the lab tours otherwise - so please register as soon as you can.  We do make an effort to make this a much more detailed event than we can provide at the University-wide Open Days.

Applications seem healthy.  After a large initial surge, arrival rates have leveled a little and we're now about 10% up on this time last year.  This means we are still being somewhat cautious on offer making, so if you have yet to hear a decision, please bear with us.

Friday, 12 October 2012

And they're off

Today is the end of our "Week 1" and I met my first year tutor group this morning to ask then how they'd found their first week as Aero students.  To begin with, they struggled to remember (!) but happily short term recollection isn't the same as long term learning.  After a bit of reflection, they agreed on "hard", but apparently grabbing their interest anyway.

Later, having a quick catch up on emails at the end of the day, my regular statistics update tells me we've had over 100 applicants already for next year.  Those are pretty fresh though so not many of them have made it all the way through the system yet.  I am happy to say, however, that our first few offers have been actioned and should be with their recipients any time.

We have a slight change to offer processing this year.  We haven't changed what we're looking for or what we'll be asking for, but there is a new person in the role of reading all your applications.  For this reason, we're being deliberately cautious on offer-making for now, until things bed in and we can form a view on the standard of our applicants.

So, while it's very exciting to see so many applications already, the message is the usual one: please bear with us.  It's important that this is done right, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Meanwhile, I've also been drafting in new recruits for our student ambassadors.  These are the people you'll be meeting if you get an offer and are invited to one of our Wednesday afternoon taster sessions.

To those hundred odd who have already applied, we'll be back to you as soon as we can.  To the others, I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

On Gender

It was good to meet so many prospective applicants and guests at Saturday's Open Day. I hope the event was enjoyable and helped demystify some of the admissions process.

Two questions came up on Saturday that deserve blog posts.  A discussion on applicant numbers at the different stages of our process will follow shortly. Today's post is inspired by a conversation with a young woman and her father: "Quite male dominated, your line of business, no?"  As yet another man in engineering, I only hope I can address this without the sort of gaffe that is likely to keep it that way.

The under-representation of women in engineering is well-known: there are numerous articles on the subject (eg here and here), organizations to support and inspire more women engineers (e.g. WES and WiSET), competitions (e.g. the IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year) and even a Wikipedia page on the subject. The headline figure, quoting an IET study from this article, is that 6% of the engineering workforce in 2012 are women.

Does Bristol's Aerospace programme do any differently?  Not significantly.  Of the 130 students about to start their degrees in a couple of weeks time, 10 are women (7.7%).  Tracing back through the selection process for home students, 42 of our 542 applications came from women (7.7% again), and 29 of our 273 offers went to women (10.6%).  Roughly, then, a female applicant stands the same chance of getting an offer and a place as a male applicant, and the low proportion of female students can be traced back to a correspondingly low proportion of female applicants, broadly in line with the proportion in the profession as a whole.  This makes sense as gender isn't a factor in our selection process: in fact, your name and gender are two of the boxes on the UCAS form that are least likely to be even looked at.  Sorry if that sounds impersonal but they simply make no difference, nor should they. (I have been asked whether or not we'd consider positive discrimination.  That's a minefield I'd rather avoid.)

I'm obviously not the one to describe what it's like to be a female Aerospace Engineering student at Bristol.  If you're good enough to get an offer, come along to one of our Wednesday taster sessions and ask one yourself.  Anecdotally though, I was interested to hear from some of my tutor group that they'd held a "Women in Aero" dinner, where female students across all years got together to talk about their experiences.  Also, hat-tip to PhD student and former undergraduate Isobel for reminding me of the blindingly obvious: your programme is only part of your university experience, and in halls, the precinct, clubs and societies, etc, you're part of the entire University student community, of which 51% are women. This is ducking the question, of course, in that it doesn't solve the problem of under-representation on our degree or in the engineering profession.  However, if you're a woman interested in an engineering degree but held back by the male-dominated environment, I hope it might help you to do one thing that can reliably increase the number of women in engineering: apply.

Friday, 24 August 2012


We're now in the short quiet period between our 2012 entry cycle, which is all but concluded now the A-level results have been settled, and the 2013 cycle, which starts in about a week when UCAS opens to applications.  (We haven't forgotten, however, about the small number of applicants to who are still awaiting results, and those of you who have already applied for deferred 2013 entry.)

What can 2013 applicants learn from the 2012 cycle?  Not a vast amount, I'm afraid.  With all the changes in grading, we ended up taking more than the usual number of "near-miss" candidates.  However, that experience will be fed back into next year's offer decisions, so it's hard to predict what'll happen next August.  Applications were up by about 8% on 2011 cycle, but again, that's not consistent enough to be a clear trend.

Planning has been going on all summer for our activities for the 2013 cycle.  We don't have any major changes in store - entry criteria will remain the same.  However, we've had some feedback on our processes from last year and we'll be refining our visit day programme to help offer holders get the most out of their chosen Wednesday.

To those of you who have secured places this year: we look forward to seeing you in a few weeks time.  To those thinking of applying for 2013: we look forward to seeing many of you at the forthcoming Open Day on September 22nd and to receiving your applications.

Monday, 23 July 2012

What's the difference between aerospace engineering and aeronautical engineering?

For our purposes, none. Our course was named Aeronautical Engineering many years ago, when that seemed to be the most suitable title. At a different time, our Department was named Aerospace Engineering.  From 2013 onwards, our degree course will also be titled "Aerospace Engineering".  The change is entirely cosmetic.  Our course still includes lots of aeronautical topics, like aerodynamics, as well as space topics, like spacecraft mission design.  

FAQ: Can you arrange work placements for students?

We don't provide this as an automatic service: it's up to individual students to do the ground work.  However, we can exploit our industrial links to help in various ways.  For example, companies often send us details of opportunities that we circulate amongst our students, and we can help make contact with the many companies we work with.  The Faculty of Engineering has an Industrial Liaison Office to bring all these contacts and opportunities together for easy access.

We encourage students to pursue industrial experience in parallel with their studies, either by taking a year or during summers.  Oddly, far fewer students actually go through with the full year than ask about it at admissions events.  One factor is that it typically means you finish your degree with a different cohort of peers than the one you started with.  That said, students who do gain experience often emerge in their final year as academically stronger, more mature, and having a good job lined up.

FAQ: What background in mathematics do I need?

We're looking for the equivalent of maths A-level.  You will need to have covered: quadratics; functions; coordinate geometry; trigonometry (including standard identities and their use); series; differentiation (including logarithms and exponentials, trigonometric functions, products and quotients); integration (including substitutions, presence of derivative and integration by parts); numerical methods for solving equations; differential equations; complex numbers; and vectors.  You should also have covered the following topics within mechanics: forces and equilibrium; motion in one dimension (including variable force problems); Newton's laws (used to solve particle motion problems); energy; work; power; projectiles; rigid body motion; and circular motion.  You should have been spending 1/3 to 1/2 of your time studying maths and be achieving the highest grades throughout.

FAQ: I'm doing a foundation programme at X / another qualification. Is it acceptable?

We cannot give a definite answer without seeing a complete application form.  The most important thing we will assess is your mathematical work.  See question: What background in mathematics do I need? for more details  If your foundation degree covers this material and you are achieving top grades, please go ahead and apply through UCAS.

FAQ: I'm part way through a different university degree and I'd like to change to Aeronautical Engineering at Bristol. Do I have to start again from the beginning?

Most likely, yes.  Our course has specialist content from the beginning and transferring into the second year or later is extremely demanding.  To avoid disappointment later on, we consider second year entry only in the most extreme circumstances.  You are welcome to apply, but if we choose to make you an offer, it is most likely that it will be for first year entry.

FAQ: Are you accredited by a professional institution?

Yes, our courses are accredited by the Royal Aeronautical Society.

FAQ: I don’t meet your entry requirements but I really want to study aerospace engineering. Can I do a foundation year to get in?

We regret we do not offer a foundation year. You could consider an Access to HE Diploma, which we could accept. See our Entry Requirements for details. Similar requirements regarding maths apply as for BTECs.

FAQ: I'm doing a BTEC National Diploma instead of A-levels. Will I get a place?

Possibly, but we're likely to ask you for some additional mathematics qualifications. Our course is highly demanding in mathematics, so you'll need equivalent to grade A in A-level maths to be prepared. A typical offer in terms of BTEC would be an overall result three Distinctions, with about a third of your units in mathematics. See question: What background in mathematics do I need? for more details.  Some people take A-level modules in addition to BTEC units to reach this standard.

FAQ: Should I study mechanical or aerospace engineering?

The focus on aircraft or spacecraft design is unique to aerospace, but that does involve some topics in common with mechanical engineering, such as mathematics, fluids, thermodynamics and mechanics.  Also, reflecting the nature of the aerospace industry, aerospace courses tend to have more coverage of integrating across disciplines, such as designing for both aerodynamics and structures.  We recommend you compare the course structures in the prospectus, and pick the one that captures your interest most.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

FAQ: What happens if I don't get the grades for my conditional offer?

It depends.  Once the results come out, we figure out how many offer-holders have achieved their grades.  If there are still places remaining, then we start to look at "near miss" candidates.  We'll take the top near-miss candidates until we either run out of places or of suitable people.  Ranking is done based on point scores or sometimes individual subjects - it's hard to say exactly without knowing the people and places available.  Historically, we usually take a single digit number of "near miss" candidates, but of course that's not a guarantee that there'll be any room left in the coming year.

In recent years (1617, 1718) competition for places has meant we have not generally been able to accept near-misses.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Welcome to the Aero admissions blog

Starting with the admissions cycle for 2013 entry, we will use this blog to keep applicants, prospective applicants and offer holders up to date with how our process is going.  Posts on this blog come straight from the academic admissions tutors.  Official responses will still be communicated via UCAS and each applicant's individual VIP page on our online system - this blog will hope to add to those but not replace them.

It's inevitable that the admissions process can lead to long periods of waiting, for both sides.  We usually have to wait and see how the overall standard of applications looks before we can decide exactly who should get offers.  This delay means that some people end up "on hold" and I appreciate how frustrating that can be.  This blog won't make that go any quicker, but I hope that we can take the edge of the wait by giving just a little more information about how things are going here.

Dr Arthur Richards, Admissions Tutor