This three-year, accredited, programme has an NSS student satisfaction rating of 100% (on Unistats this is 95%) and covers all areas in depth.
Success in all sports is increasingly dependent on athletes selecting the best equipment for the conditions. This three-year Joint Honours programme, taught by the School of Metallurgy and Materials and the School of Sport and Exercise Science, gives you an understanding of design and materials in sports equipment in relation to the athlete’s behaviour during sport and exercise that is essential to peak performance.
The course offers a modular programme of study which normally leads to the award of Bachelor of Science (BSc) in three years .
First and second years
A careful mix of lectures, practicals and case studies during the first two years, develops your understanding of the effects of exercise on the human body, through subjects including:
In parallel, the properties, selection and processing of metals, polymers and composites are covered using a range of sports equipment examples including shoes, bicycles, rackets and balls. Case studies develop teamwork, communication and IT skills, whilst interaction with the sports industry emphasises the practical importance of your skills.
In the third year you can specialise in topics that most interest you in Sports Science, whilst expanding into areas such as advanced materials, and design and failure analysis in Materials Technology. These topics lead to your final-year materials-related research project, which will be at the forefront of equipment development – from artificial pitches to Formula 1.
Generic skills-training, focusing on transferable skills and employability, is embedded throughout the course from the outset, and will ensure that you are equipped with the ICT, presentation, team-working and problem–solving skills which will enhance your employability on graduation
Why study this course
- The School of Metallurgy and Materials at Birmingham is a major research centre with world class facilities, and is consistently rated in the top three of research centres of its kind in the UK. Success in joint research with industry has been recognised by the award of the Secretary of State for Industry’s University/Industry Partnership Prize.
- Successful Metallurgy and Materials graduates are creative, numerate, good communicators and skilled at solving problems and delivering results. With these qualities our graduates not only develop careers as high-quality practising scientists and engineers, but are sought after by top companies for their potential in management, finance, consulting and other senior professional positions.
- The School of Sport and Exercise Sciences occupies a modern £16.4 million building that houses teaching and research laboratories for physiology, biochemistry, biomechanics, psychology, motor skills, functional anatomy, muscle mechanics and the neurophysiology of movement.
- Our students enjoy exceptionally high employment prospects
If you like the idea of joining our team, please don't hesitate to come and talk to us.
What our students say:
“It’s absolutely brilliant – the course is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to combine physical science and sport. I love the case studies; for example we did one on tennis rackets and not only did we look at the materials in the racket but also all the marketing aspects of the product.”
– Ruth Deaville
“The most enjoyable aspect of my degree programme is that I get to enjoy the benefits of the two different departments. I also know that I’m on a unique programme that I’ll be able to use fully when I leave”
– Sian Halliwell
“Having joined the course through my interest in sports science, I found myself increasingly involved in the materials side of the degree. The support and guidance from the staff in the department is second to none, and I ended up doing aerospace research for my dissertation with BAE Systems. I found the experience so rewarding, I stayed on in the department for postgraduate study on the MRES course”
– Malcolm McCardle
"The Sports and Material Science course at the University of Birmingham seemed perfect for me. I had always been interested in sport but also enjoyed studying science at school. After doing my A Levels in PE, maths and physics the course at Birmingham felt like a good way to continue learning in these subjects but in relation to sport and sports equipment design.I thoroughly enjoyed my three years at Birmingham and can honestly say that a large part of that was down to the course.
In my year, there was around thirty students on 'Sportsmat', as its called, and so it was a very personal and interactive type of learning.Not only did the lecturers within the department know everyone on the course but you all get to know each other very well too. I met some of my best friends on that first daunting day in lectures! The course is divided between the metallurgy and materials department and sports science so you get the best of both worlds, the first year is quite general with everyone getting to the same level in all areas but after that options are available.
The materials modules aim to teach the basics of materials technology and the content is strongly linked to sports materials throughout the course, e.g. skis, tennis and formula 1 cars to name but a few. This brings the subject to life. The final year then allows you to specialise and independently research areas which interest you. I would strongly recommend this course to anyone."
- Katharine Mill
The degree programme is split equally between the Schools of Metallurgy and Materials and Sport and Exercise Sciences. The course is structured to enable students to grasp the fundamentals of both halves of the course and subsequently integrate their knowledge through the study of sports equipment case studies in both the design and biomechanics modules of the degree.
The academic year is split into two teaching semesters and an examination session. Semester one is in the autumn and Semester two is in the spring. Exams are held in May. The academic content of the degree is divided into modules, each consisting of a range of components typically including:
- Laboratory sessions
- Class tutorials
- Case studies.
The laboratory sessions, class tutorials and case studies usually form the continuous assessment component of the module, which typically consists of 20 to 30% of the overall module mark.
The course is structured to enable the fundamentals of each half of the course to be introduced in the first year (level 1) and be subsequently developed in later years.
Module outlines of years two and three are available on our UCAS open days.
Properties and Applications of Materials (10 credits)
This module introduces the range of materials used in engineering applications along with some basic selection rules for determining the appropriate materials for a given application. The module also introduces fundamental science that determines the properties of materials, such as bonding types and atomic / molecular structures.
Biomechanics (10 credits)
The module aims to introduce the concepts and principles relating to statics and dynamics. This is accomplished by considering a wide range of sporting examples. The module examines biomechanics from a materials perspective and is focused on the equipment and interactions with the athlete.
Polymers, Composites and Ceramics (10 credits)
The module aims to develop depth of knowledge in the areas of polymer science, composites technology and structure/property relationships in ceramics. The main focus will be to develop qualitative and conceptual understanding with emphasis on mechanical and physical properties. The module will develop concepts introduced in 'Properties and Applications of Materials'
Design and Professional Skills (20 credits)
This module begins with a formal introduction to the design process, computer aided design techniques and project management. The module then develops by considering the material selection process and manufacturing methods associated with equipment production.
Fundamentals of Materials: Shaping (10 credits)
This module concerns the methods by which materials can be processed in the manufacturing stage of production. Casting, forging and welding of metals is considered together with injection moulding, extrusion and adhesive bonding of polymers.
Anatomy and Biomechanics in Sport (20 credits)
The anatomy of the musculoskeletal system are taught with an emphasis on the function of muscles in movements. Specific joint movements are analysed using electromyographic and biomechanical techniques. The principals of movement analysis in sport are discussed to develop an understanding of the theories and procedures that are used in biomechanical analysis of the musculo-skeletal system.
Human Physiology (20 credits)
An introductory course covering the human nervous, cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as renal, muscle and thermoregulatory physiology.
Psychological foundations of sport and exercise (20 credits)
This module offers a broad survey of the sport and exercise psychology literature comprising four parts. The first part examines individual participants in sport and exercise. The second part of the module covers relevant research on groups, group processes, and intergroup relations. The third part of the module focuses on strategies for performance enhancement. Finally, the fourth part of the module covers material on psychological health and well-being.
- Polymer science and Materials Case study (20 credits)
- Materials Engineering Design (20 credits)
- Polymer Engineering and Composites (10 credits)
- Fracture, fatigue and corrosion (10 credits)
- Exercise physiology (20 credits)
- Biochemistry (20 credits)
- Psychology of human movement (20 credits)
- Final Year Project (40 credits)
- Design for Manufacture (10 credits)
- Advanced Materials in Sports Equipment (10 credits)
- Literature Review (20 credits)
- Applied Mechanics in Sport (20 credits)
- Option (20 credits)
Final year projects
In addition to our teaching excellence, we have been awarded the prestigious and exclusive award of 6* for our ‘internationally outstanding’ research. We are keen for our undergraduates to get the maximum benefit from our leadership in research and our final year project component of our courses facilitates this.
Metallurgy and Materials and the Interdisciplinary Research Centre (IRC) in Materials Processing together make up the largest centre for materials research in the UK. We have over thirty full-time academic staff in addition to thirty honorary and visiting staff, fifty research fellows and close to 130 postgraduate students.
Our diverse research portfolio ranges from fundamental aspects of Materials Science to practical high performance engineering applications. Research is funded from a wide range of sources including the UK Research Councils, the EU and a cross-section of national and international companies. Our research income is in the region of £4.1 million per year. Success in joint research with industry has been recognised by the award of the Secretary of State for Industry’s University/Industry Partnership Prize and the extremely prestigious award of 6* in the Research Assessment Exercise.
The students’ research skills are developed and refined in the final year project. This module is a major undertaking and typically consists of up to 2 days work per week for 22 weeks. The research is carried out in a research laboratory and is supervised by a research active member of staff. There is a wide variety of projects of offer each year in a wide range of areas including sports materials, biomaterials, aerospace, automotive (and motorsport).
Examples of recent projects
- Development of carbon fibre composite components for Formula 1 racing cars (Jordan Grand Prix Ltd)
- Corrosion resistance of high performance aluminium alloys (Jaguar Cars Ltd.)
- Selection of new materials for the Formula SAE racing car space frame.
- Design and production of high performance carbon fibre sports prosthetic limbs
- Assessment of golf club performance (R & A Ltd - previously the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews)
- High performance materials for cycle tubes (Reynolds Tubing Ltd)
- Alloy Development Of Al-Based Bulk Metallic Glasses for golfing applications
- Improved Corrosion Resistance For Aerospace Alloys Through Laser Surface Alloying (BAE Systems)
- Optical Fibre Sensors for Smart Structures in Biomedical and Sports Applications
- Micromechanisms of fracture and fatigue crack growth in a burn-resistant advanced titanium alloy (Rolls-Royce Ltd)
- Plasma Surface Modification Of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethene for skis and snowboards
- Gripping and slipping in tennis grip tapes
- Development of carbon fibre wheels for high performance track bicycles
- Creation of smart skis using piezoelectric materials
- Suitability of head protection in kickboxing
- Shock absorption in running shoes
Fees and funding
Number of A levels required: 3
Typical offer: AAB
Required subjects and grades: Must include an A level in one of Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Design and Technology, PE/Sports Science
General Studies: Not accepted, but a good performance may be taken into account if you fail to meet the conditions of the offer
International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6,6,5 at Higher Level, including Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry or Design Technology, with a minimum of 32 points overall.
Standard English language requirements apply
Learn more about international entry requirements
Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.
How to apply
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