Railway Systems Integration MRes

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Railway businesses rely on advanced technical and operational systems to carry vast numbers of passengers in densely populated areas and large quantities of goods over long distances.

This Master of Research (MRes) programme prepares you for a career in research and development in railway businesses and companies supplying railways with advanced technical and operational systems. By developing your analytical skills and research know-how, the programme can also serve as a stepping stone to doctoral studies.

The MRes offers a unique opportunity for students to undertake a research-based Masters degree together with technical study in a relevant railway systems or engineering subject. Students benefit from participating in both the fundamental and applied research carried out within the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, and from the world-leading educational programmes offered by the Centre. 

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This is an interdisciplinary programme that combines a major research project with technical studies that build on prior academic study or industrial experience in a relevant subject area.

It gives students the opportunity to benefit from the fundamental and applied research being conducted in the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education. The programme allows students to research a technical, social or economic problem associated with the railway industry.

Projects are usually undertaken in collaboration with industry, making them highly attractive for applied R&D projects. At the same time, students learn more about specific technical and management issues relevant to the railway industry. Key benefits include the broad range of research topics available, from highly-technical projects to those focusing on business/policy issues.

Two-thirds of this course comprises a major, individual research project, carried out in any aspect of railway research relevant to the activities of the Centre, and often in collaboration with an industrial partner. One-third consists of taught modules. As a result, you will gain athorough understanding of recent developments in railway research and of the industry’s needs for new and emerging technologies. You will also acquire the skills to apply these developments in your research project.

Hear about the course from Dr Hemida

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Why study this course

  • Gain a unique opportunity to carry out valuable research alongside high-level education in a relevant railway systems, business or engineering subject
  • Benefit from participating in the fundamental and applied research carried out within the BCRRE, and from the world-leading educational programmes offered by the Centre
  • For applicants with limited railway experience the three-week introductory course in Terminology and Communication for Railways sets the scene and familiarises you with the components and terminology of the railway system.
  • The major research project makes this programme ideal for company sponsorship in order to establish or continue a research and development programme
  • The course is designed for new graduates and practising railway professionals who have an interest and desire to take part in research and development

Why Birmingham?

BCRRE is Europe’s largest Railway-focussed research and education group. Projects involve fundamental and applied research in railway science, technology and business. BCRRE is privileged to work with many colleagues from the railway industry who regularly contribute seminars and talks. Not only do these enrich and embed your learning, they provide excellent opportunities for networking with others in the industry. 

We have extensive laboratories and facilities both on and off our campus for carrying out research in railway engineering. Recently we have commissioned a wind tunnel and a loading rig of three half-sleepers for undertaking near full-scale investigations into railway track foundations. We also have an aerodynamic moving-model testing facility for high-speed trains.


The programme includes a three-week short course "Introductory Terminology and Communication for Railways" which prepares you for your forthcoming study.

Programme content

In addition to the research project, worth 120 credits, you will study topics related to Research
Skills and the Research Environment for 30 credits. Your will also select one or two technical
modules, each worth 10 credits, and one or two management modules, also worth 10 credits,
to complement your choice of technical modules.

Core modules

  • Terminology and Communication for Railways – non credit
  • Research Skills and Research Environment – 30 credits
  • Research Project – 120 credits

About the introductory Terminology and Communication for Railways course:

This 3-week course will provide broad-based supplementary learning on railway technical vocabulary and specialist communications and is aimed at students with no or limited knowledge or experience of the railway industry. It will familiarise you with the components of the railway system and its terminology and will enhance your technical communication skills. Completion of the introductory course will ensure you are well-prepared for the technical content of this demanding programme and help you gain the most out of your year of study.

Topics covered include railway components and subsystems, railway-specific terminology and concepts of railway safety and risk. This introduction is given context with site visits and group exercises. This course will not count towards the MSc but there will be an informal assessment at the end of the course, which indicates your relative strengths and weaknesses in each of the technical areas and which, in turn, enables tailored tutorial support throughout your study.

Your experience and familiarity with railway systems will be assessed during the application stage. If you possess sufficient knowledge it is possible that you will not need to attend this element of the programme. Please contact us directly to discuss.

Typical Optional Technical modules

  • Railway Rolling Stock Systems Design – 10 credits
  • Railway Traction Systems Design – 10 credits
  • Railway Infrastructure and Track Systems – 10 credits
  • Train Control Systems Engineering – 10 credits
  • Ergonomics and Human Factors for Railways – 10 credits

Typical Optional Management modules

  • Strategic Management of Railway Operations – 10 credits
  • Systems Engineering and Integration for Dependability – 10 credits
  • Railway Economics and Technology Management – 10 credits

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods.

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Fees and funding

Tuition Fees 2019/20 academic year:

  • £6,000 UK/EU students, full-time
  • £23,100  International students, full-time

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

We offer a range of postgraduate scholarships for taught programmes and research opportunities to ensure the very best talent is nurtured and supported at postgraduate level.

Additional scholarships can be found in the funding database.

Contact the department for further information.

Entry requirements

The normal entrance qualification for MRes study is a 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, physics, engineering, mathematics or economics). 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

Learn more about applying.

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

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education is a cross-disciplinary centre, mainly involving staff from the Schools of Civil, Electrical and Materials Engineering, and also staff from a number of other Schools across the University. Its purpose is to carry out fundamental and applied research in railway science and technology and to provide high level educational opportunities in these fields.

The centre’s research activities include high speed railways, traffic management and operations simulation, power and energy, railway data integration, climate change resilience and extreme weather response, smart conditioning monitoring and railway aerodynamics. It also offers MSc programmes in Railway Systems Engineering and Integration, and in Railway Risk and Safety Management, and provides high level CPD programmes for the railway industry.

The MRes in Railway Systems Integration is an exciting programme that combines technical study with training in research methodology and a major research project. The aims of the programme are:

  • to develop students' understanding of the specific requirements of complex technologies and concepts that are applied in the context of the railway industry;
  • to develop students' research skills and their knowledge of research methods applicable to the specific issues arising in railway-related research;
  • to ensure that students are aware of state-of-the-art developments in railway research in specific technical and operational topic areas;
  • to allow students to develop the understanding necessary to identify new and emerging research needs in today's railway industry;
  • to enable students to develop the knowledge and skills required to undertake independently a significant research project of relevance to the railway industry.

The programme comprises 3 classroom taught technology oriented modules and a research skills module that consists of three main elements, namely, reviewing literature, analysing data and modelling the behaviour of technical systems. Two thirds of the period of study are devoted to independent research that is documented in a substantial thesis.

Part-time students follow the same syllabus as full-time students but complete the taught modules and the thesis in a sequence that best suits their work commitments. Part-time study allows for work and research to take place alongside each other, contextualising research research activities directly into the employer's organisation.

Graduates of this programme are in demand to implement new technologies and policies within the railway or related industries. They are also sought-after by academic and commercial institutions for further research and development.

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