Imperial College Civil & Environmental Engineering

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The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London is located in the Skempton Building at the South Kensington Campus in London. It is one of 10 academic departments of the Faculty of Engineering. The current Head of the Department is Professor Nick Buenfeld. This department was ranked as the top Civil Engineering department in the world according to the 2013 QS World University Rankings [1] and the only British school in the top 20.


Brief history and past heads[edit]

The Department is currently a part of the Imperial College Faculty of Engineering, which was formed in 1907 when Imperial College (then formally named as Imperial College of Science and Technology) was founded. Before that, the Faculty of Engineering was the City and Guilds of London Institute which was formed in 1878.

In 1884 the Institution of Civil and Mechanical Engineering was formed until 1913 when the Institution was split into two Departments, the Department of Civil Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. When the two departments were united, the Heads of the Institution of Civil and Mechanical Engineering were:

From 1913 when the Department of Civil Engineering was separated, the Heads were:

  • 1913–1933: Professor Stephen M. Dixon(Railways and Bridges)
  • 1933–1956: Professor Alfred Pippard(Structural Analysis and Aeronautical Structures)
  • 1957–1976: Professor Sir Alec Skempton(Soil Mechanics)
  • 1976–1982: Professor Bernard George Neal(Engineering Structures)
  • 1982–1985: Professor John Ian Munro(Civil Engineering Systems)
  • 1986–1994: Professor Patrick J. Dowling(Structural Engineering)
  • 1994–1997: Professor Roger E. Hobbs(Structural Engineering)
  • 1997–1999: Professor Tony M. Ridley(Transport)
  • 1999–2011: Professor David A. Nethercot(Structural Engineering)
  • 2011–Now: Professor Nick Buenfeld - (Concrete Structures)

Structure and research[edit]

The Department currently consists of 5 main Sections:[2]

Each section has its own Head and its own laboratories. Research carried out in the department covers experimental, analytical, computational and theoretical work. Additionally, field research is conducted, especially in the Environmental and Geotechnical Engineering Sections. Each section is responsible for their postgraduate courses, taught and non-taught. The Department also houses the Laing O'Rourke Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation.


The Department covers both undergraduate and postgraduate level studies, as well as a number of short courses for practising engineers.


The Department offers the opportunity to follow Undergraduate studies [3] leading to the MEng degree. Students can study for an MEng in Civil Engineering or in Civil Engineering with a year abroad. In the latter, the students may choose to spend their fourth and final year at a collaborating institution. The current list of institutions includes the following institutions:

All students graduating with the MEng degree are also awarded the Associateship of the City & Guilds Institute, ACGI.


Taught postgraduate courses [4] last for one year and they are leading to the award of the MSc degree. The department currently offers a number of postgraduate taught courses covering its main research areas and which may be combined with some modules in Business Management and Sustainable Development.

Research postgraduate studies [5] are available for a number of students and they lead to the award of a PhD or even to award of an EngD degree. The former are designed to last normally for 3–4 years whereas the latter are normally designed to last for 4 years. The subjects of the Doctoral studies are mainly related to the research interests of the academic staff and they are generally covered by the areas mentioned in the Research paragraph along with some aspects of Engineering Geology, Engineering Seismology, Earthquake Engineering, Air Quality Management, Port Operations, Positioning and Navigation etc.

All students graduating with any of the postgraduate degrees (MSc, PhD or EngD) are also awarded the Diploma of Imperial College, DIC.

Short courses[edit]

The Department also organises some short courses [6] for people in Industry and other interested professionals. Recent short courses available in the Department include:

  • Advanced Soil Characterisation
  • Civil Engineering MSc Modules for CPD
  • New Methods for Driven Piles in Sands & Clays
  • Numerical Analysis in Geotechnical Engineering
  • Post Tensioning Design and Construction
  • Seismic Design to Eurocode 8
  • Short Course on Foundations


The Department has its own Departmental Library [7] located on the fourth floor in the Skempton Building. It used to be part of the Imperial College Library, but from 2009 it is a part of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) library. It is said to be the second largest Civil Engineering Library in the world, to the ICE's main Library. This Library covers mainly standard reference textbooks, academic journals, proceedings of conferences, geological maps, theses, electronic information resources and a collection of old historic books some of them dated back to the 19th century.

International standing[edit]


Imperial College is widely regarded as one of the top Engineering Schools in the world.[8] The Imperial College Civil Engineering Department has consistently ranked within the top Civil Engineering schools both nationally and internationally. This is mainly because: (a) it has a reputation for a solid undergraduate course in which students are introduced to civil engineering subjects as early as from the first term of the course, (b) it provides a number of specialist postgraduate taught courses which have for over 50 years transferred the scientific knowledge from academia to industry and (c) it carries out world class research and consulting in all aspects of civil engineering science with the exceptional laboratory facilities. The Department has been consistently the top Civil Engineering school in the UK [9] and within the top Civil Engineering schools in the world. In 2013, it was ranked as the top Civil Engineering school in the world [10] and the only British school in the top 20, with other European Institutions, Delft University of Technology in 4th, ETH 14th, Politecnico di Milano 18th and University of Cambridge at 22nd place.


The department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has had a significant contribution to the science over the last decades of its existence. From the department's academics, two[11] have been Knighted, several others have received other classes of the Order of the British Empire, five[12] people received the prestigious Institution of Structural Engineers Gold Medal, nine[13] people delivered the British Geotechnical Association Rankine Lecture and several have been Fellows of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering and have delivered the Geotechnique Lecture.

Several notable people have passed from it and some of them are (in alphabetical order):


The Department has strong links with industry and professional institutions and bodies. Past President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, (ICE) Professor Paul Jowitt[15] is an alumnus of the Department. The previous Head, Professor David A. Nethercot is a past President of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), whereas the current President of the Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED) [16] is the Head of the Structural Engineering Section, Professor Ahmed Elghazouli, who is also the UK's national delegate for international committees for Earthquake Engineering. The current Director of the RAC Foundation [17] is the Department's Professor of Transport Economics, Professor Stephen Glaister [18][19] who is also Partnership Director of Tube Lines and has also been a board member of Transport for London (TfL). The current Head of the Civil & Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT), Professor Andrew J. Whittle [20][21] is also a graduate of the Department.

Moreover, there is a close link with a number of companies in the industry. Not only general engineering firms but also some more specialist companies have strong bonds with the Department. A number of high level consulting specialist companies, such as Novacem,[22] GCG,[23] PORTeC [24] and GeO [25] are "spin-outs" of the Department through collaborations of the Academics and external Entrepreneurs.

The strong bonds of the Department with the outside academic and professional world can be seen through the various close collaborations with professional bodies and association. Examples are the prestigious British Geotechnical Association's Rankine Lecture which is hosted every March at Imperial College,[26] the organisation of the Centre for Transport Studies [27] (a collaboration between Imperial College and University College London), several seminars organised by the Institution of Structural Engineers (such as IStructE Gold Medal awards [28]), and seminar organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers and its bodies such as the Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED).



  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College [1]
  • History of the Department [2]
  • Gay Hannah (2007) The History of Imperial College London 1907–2007: Higher Education and Research in Science, Technology and Medicine. Imperial College Press, London. ISBN 1-86094-709-3.