Advanced Chemical Engineering Masters/MSc/Diploma

Postgraduate degree course in Advanced Chemical Engineering Masters/MSc/Diploma:

Chemical engineering now extends beyond its traditional roots in oil and gas processing. In this course you will learn about the aspects of chemical engineering that deal with the design and development of formulated products such as food and pharmaceuticals. 

The programme has options in Food Processing, Pharmaceutical Technology and Business Studies. 

Chemical Engineering is dynamic and evolving. It provides many solutions to problems facing industries in the pharmaceutical, biotechnological, oil, energy and food and drink sectors.  It is vital to many issues affecting our quality of life; such as better and more economical processes to reduce the environmental burden, and more delicious and longer lasting food due to the right combination of chemistry, ingredients and processing.  

Birmingham is a friendly, self-confident, School which has one of the largest concentrations of chemical engineering expertise in the UK.  The School is consistently in the top five chemical engineering schools for research in the country.  

QS Ranking logo It has a first-class reputation in learning, teaching and research, and is highly placed in both The Guardian and The Times league tables.

Professor Mike Adams, Unilever

Professor of Product Engineering and Manufacture

“"There is an unprecedented growth in the demand for formulated products such as fuel cell technology, pharmaceuticals and foods that require the application of cutting-edge science and engineering to meet the quality assurance and sustainability standards that are expected by legislation and consumers."”

Chemical engineering now extends beyond its traditional roots in oil and gas processing. In this course you will learn about the aspects of chemical engineering that deal with the design and development of formulated products such as food and pharmaceuticals.

This programme comprises 12 short-course taught modules (six core and six optional) and a research project carried out with one of the department's research teams (MSc only).The programme has options in Food Processing, Pharmaceutical Technology and Business Studies.

Programme content

Core modules

Multidisciplinary core modules cover the fundamental science and engineering underpinning the design of sophisticated formulated products. Depending upon your academic background, you will begin by studying the fundamental principles of either chemical engineering or the relevant biological science.

Further core modules deal with topics such as:

  • Modern molecular biology
  • Advanced techniques for material characterisation
  • Interfacial physics and chemistry
  • Structured fluids
  • Molecular delivery

Optional modules

A wide range of optional modules enables you to gain specific knowledge relating to food and/or pharmaceutical product development. You may also choose to study business and management modules, or develop mathematical modelling skills.

The programme can be studied full-time over one year, or part-time over two or three years. Modules are also available individually to fulfil continuing professional development needs.

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Why study this course

In this course we consider the important aspects of chemical engineering in the 21st century that address the issues of the design and development of key formulated products such as fuel cells, food and pharmaceuticals.

Our themes enable you to specialise in areas of chemical and process engineering that interest you; from the production and formulation of pharmaceuticals, formulation of structured food products, hydrogen energy and the business surrounding chemical and process engineering.


Our research strengths are in the design and characterisation of products, in heat and mass transfer, fluid flow, particle technology and materials engineering across chemical, biological and physical systems. We collaborate with world-class industry and with leading edge engineering and science departments nationally and internationally.


The MSc is a 12-month full-time advanced course, comprising lectures, laboratory work, short experimental projects and a research project. You will take an introductory module, four core modules, and then choose 60 credits of optional themed modules. The course can also be taken on a part-time basis. The Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) lasts for 8 months from the end of September until June.

Module descriptions

Introductory modules

Entry level graduates initially follow special conversion-course lectures in either process engineering or biological science topics, depending on their first degree. Students may attend both modules if they wish, but will only be examined on one.

* Process engineering fundamentals – 10 credits

This module introduces students from a non-chemical engineering background to the fundamental aspects of process engineering. The ideas and skills developed during the module are essential for anyone planning to work in the process industries. The module starts with material and energy balances and then looks at fluid flow, heat and mass transfer and reactor design. The mathematical skills required for this and subsequent modules will be developed through tutorials.


* Bioscience for graduates from other scientific disciplines – 10 credits

If you have not studied biological science during your first degree then this module is for you. Topics include: biochemistry, cell structure and characterisation, bioenergetics, fundamental molecular biology, cell signalling, histology and physiology. This module will also address the practical application of aseptic techniques and other methods for the handling, manipulation and containment of biological material. Many of the areas and concepts covered in this module will be developed further in subsequent modules.

*These modules will be timetabled to allow students to attend both if required. However, only one will be formally assessed as agreed with the course director.

Core modules

Modern genome-based bioscience – 10 credits

In this module you will learn how systems and synthetic biology are impacting on Chemical and Biochemical Engineering in the 21st Century. Topics include the “omics” - genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics, important tools in modern molecular and systems biology, computational modelling and systems integration.

Measurement techniques – 10 credits

This module examines a wide variety of techniques that are important for characterising the structure and quality of formulated products and the processes used to make them. X-ray microtomography, micromanipulation, positron emission particle tracking, particle image velocimetry and dynamic vapour sorption are just some of the methods studied.

Colloid chemistry and rheology  – 20 credits

This module provides an in depth study of the world of colloidal systems and their industrial importance. The course will concentrate on three main systems namely suspensions (e.g. paints, toothpaste), emulsions (e.g. margarines, pharmaceutical preparations) and foams (e.g. mousses, shaving foams). Rheology, which is the study of how materials deform and flow, will also be covered in detail. The emphasis of the course is on how interparticle forces control the structure of colloidal systems and understanding how the processing of a fluid affects its structure, stability and function on both a micro- and macroscopic scale.

Molecular delivery  – 10 credits

This module defines and explains the principles of molecular delivery that underpin formulation engineering in food, pharmaceutical and speciality chemical processing. The first part of the module outlines the engineering science of diffusion and molecular transport, in terms of Fickian and non-Fickian diffusion and mass transfer models. The emphasis is on the physical factors that give rise to each type of diffusional and transport process and how they can be represented physically and mathematically. In the second part of the module, the ways in which this type of approach can be applied practically will be outlined using a series of examples and case studies e.g. encapsulation in drug delivery, consecutive mass transfer and diffusion stages in flavour delivery, and transport processes in catalysis and fuel cells.

Optional themed modules – choice of 50 credits (MSc & Diploma)

Modules from different themes can be combined within timetabling constraints. All modules are offered subject to sufficient enrolled students. All module descriptions are provisional and subject to minor change.

Pharmaceutical Technology Theme

Plant design and manufacturing principles in (bio) pharmaceutical production – 10 credits

This module provides students with an understanding of the engineering and operational issues involved in the manufacture of new chemical and biological products for the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Topics include the design and layout of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, principles of quality assurance (QA), good manufacturing practice (GMP), quality control (QC) and validation. Cleaning (CIP), sterilisation methods, aseptic processing and containment are also discussed. Part of the module is delivered by external speakers from industry.

From bench to market: the development of pharmaceutical drug products – 10 credits

From the latest technologies used in drug discovery through to post market surveillance activities – this module looks at the stages involved in the multimillion pound process of drug product development. You will learn about drug discovery in the post genomic era, preclinical studies, clinical trials, pre-formulation and formulation activities, manufacturing considerations and regulatory procedures.

Design and development of drug delivery systems – 10 credits

Drugs are rarely administered to patients solely as chemical or biological substances – instead, they are first formulated into dosage forms or drug delivery systems. This module examines a range of available methods and technologies for the delivery of chemical and macromolecular drugs (peptides, proteins and nucleic acids) and concentrates on the scientific and engineering principles underpinning their design.

Food Engineering Theme

Food flavour – 10 credits

This module discusses food flavour in terms of flavour production and release, the roles of flavour, the physics of the mouth, the physical chemistry of the mouth and the ways in which food processing impacts on flavour.

Developing food structure through thermal processing – 10 credits

This module aims to develop the skills of students to analyse the thermal processes found in the food industry from first principles and to explain how these processes operate and how they can be designed and controlled. Novel ways of carrying out thermal processes are also discussed in the light of the quality and safety required of practical food processes.

Hygienic food processing – 10 credits

This module outlines the engineering and scientific principles which control the hygiene of process plant, and thus have to be considered in the design of such plant. The module presents both microbiological and engineering material to demonstrate how both the engineering design of equipment and the way it is operated affect the microbiological contamination of the plant.

Hydrogen Energy Theme

Electrochemistry and electrochemical engineering – 10 credits

This module discusses the theories and applications of electrochemistry and is divided into two parts. The first part covers the principles of electrochemistry including electron-transfer kinetics, cell voltages and electroanalytical techniques. The second part focuses on battery technology, fuel cells, electroysis and electroplating.

Materials for hydrogen and fuel cell technology – 10 credits

The aim of the module is to provide an insight into the critical role materials science plays in a range of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. An overview of materials in the hydrogen energy economy acts as an introduction, followed by discussion of methods of hydrogen production and storage, PEM and solid oxide fuel cells. The design of integrated hydrogen and fuel cell energy systems is then discussed.

Energy policy and case studies – 20 credits

A historical overview of the development of global energy policy over the last 50 years leads into the recent legislative instruments aimed at reducing inefficient use of resources. Case studies and visiting speakers introduce examples of energy efficiency in action. Formal teaching about past and current legislation are interleaved with short blocks of case study material from practising energy engineers aimed at preparing students for entry into the energy sector.

Business Studies Theme

Marketing and total quality management – 10 credits

The module provides a comprehensive introduction to the concepts of consumer behaviour, marketing and market planning and research and concepts of total quality management in engineering companies.

Business methods, economics and strategy – 10 credits

The module is divided into three sections: 1) human relations; 2) economics; and 3) strategic analysis. Examples of topics discussed include: theory of the firm; managing change and conflict in the workplace; communication and methods of communication analysis; economic models; and strategic decision making.

Effective project management – 10 credits

This module introduces project management and covers economic project appraisal, resource management, safety awareness, project planning and critical path analysis. There are exercises on critical path analysis, time management and team working.

Core skills

Powder handling - 10 credits

This module covers a wide range of topics involving powders and particulate materials that are of great importance to many process industries. First, the interactions between individual particles are considered at the microscopic level, to explain the fundamental origins of powder properties such as friction and cohesion. These properties are then used at a macroscopic level, which requires a careful analysis of how stresses are developed and transmitted in three-dimensional situations. This leads to predictions of flow patterns and flow rates from storage hoppers and some typical equipment is described. Similarly, there are presentations of the basic techniques and equipment used for fluidisation, cleaning of dusty gases, granulation and mixing. The analysis of powders, especially particle size distributions, is described.

Mathematical modelling of time-dependent processes - 10 credits

This module introduces students to mathematical modelling.  Emphasis is placed on the development of the models and their solution primarily in software (e.g. Matlab™ and Femlab™). The course starts with ordinary differential equation models, looking in particular at population models. It then moves on to look at partial differential equations including the diffusion equation. N.B. This option is only suitable for students who have an A-Level in maths (or equivalent).

Summer research project (MSc only) – 60 credits

Our interdisciplinary summer projects fully exploit links within the School of Chemical Engineering and other schools, and also with industry, offering opportunities to join teams of high calibre research staff. The project consolidates course work and intensive research experience in an exciting way, providing a route to technological publications, and rounding off the year of study in a satisfying way.

Special Features

The lecture courses are supplemented with tutorials, seminars and experimental work. Industrial visits and talks by speakers from industrial and service organisations are also included in the course programme.

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to keep them up-to-date, which may require changes to module content. Also, key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for UK/EU students 2017/18

MSc:   Full-time £8,910. Part-time £4,455
Postgraduate Diploma:   Full-time £5,940. Part-time £2,970
For further information please view the  fees and funding page. 

Tuition fees for International students 2017/18

MSc: Full time £19,890
Postgraduate Diploma: Full-time £13,260
Part-time programmes:   UK student visa regulations mean that students classed as overseas for fees purposes may normally only register on a full-time basis.
For further information please view the fees for international students page.

Scholarships and studentships

Some students on this programme receive BBSRC or EPSRC funding. 
International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or email

Entry requirements

You should have, or expect to obtain, a 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Chemical Engineering or Chemistry with sufficient Mathematics). Learn more about entry requirements.  

International students

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements. Standard English language requirements apply.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

This programme comprises 12 short-course taught modules (six core and six optional) and a research project carried out with one of the department's research teams (MSc only).The programme has options in Food Processing, Pharmaceutical Technology and Business Studies.  

University Careers Network

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge.

If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

Professional accreditation

Our Chemical Engineering programmes are accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers.