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Materials in Fusion Energy MRes

Start date
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024/25:
£4,778 (UK)
£27,360 (International Students)
Further fee information is available.

This unique post-graduate qualification in materials science specifically for the growing Fusion Energy section, covers the challenges associated with a fusion environment and how you would design, manufacture, certify and life materials for this complex environment.

This unique degree course is designed to develop the skills and understanding required to prepare you for a career in Nuclear Sector. One of the major challenges the UK faces is reshaping how it generates electricity, as it moves away from fossil fuels. As such there is a renewed focus on the UK Fusion Energy sector and with the announcement that the UK is going to be a next generation demonstrator reactor in the UK (STEP) there is a strategic UK need to have qualified people to deliver this programme.

With more than 60 years’ experience in teaching the physics of nuclear reactors and more than 100 years’ experience of teaching materials science, Birmingham is one of the best places to study in this sector. You will be taught by experts in the field enabling you to gain strong theoretical and practical skills in the subject.

Our multidisciplinary Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research boasts world-leading research and facilities and has strong links with the nuclear industry, which recruits extensively from our educational programmes.

The aim of this MRes programme

  • Equip you with advanced scientific knowledge, concepts and skills necessary for a research or technology development career in materials science and engineering in the fusion energy or a related sector.
  • Provide you with the opportunity to carry out individual research project work in materials science and engineering related to fusion energy, to acquire the generic research skills necessary to engage in future research or study and to enable students to report research outcomes to an audience.
  • Produce graduates with broad knowledge and research skills of materials science and engineering related to the fusion energy sector and hence prepare students for academic study and industrial employment.
  • The programme will also aim to produce a pipeline of high quality candidates for doctoral materials research programmes such as classic PhD, new PhD with integrated studies and EngD.
  • This programme can be taken on a full- or part-time basis. This one-year Course (full-time) comprises a major research project (two-thirds of the year) and five taught modules (one-third of the year), which are taken within the first semester.

Why study Materials in Fusion Energy MRes at Birmingham?

  • Metallurgy and Materials at Birmingham is one of the largest centres for materials research in the UK. This includes significant expertise collaborating with the Nuclear industry, including UKAEA.
  • The course is led by the Joint Chair in Fusion Materials established at the University of Birmingham by the UK Atomic Energy Authority. The will work closely with Culham Centre for Fusion Energy to ensure the content remains relevant in the fast-changing landscape of the UK Fusion sector.
  • The MRes programme is rooted in high-quality teaching and learning through enquiry-based and independent study, producing high calibre graduates equipped with the skills to excel in a technical role in the materials sector.
  • Students will benefit from our established links with industry, which can be utilised during the dissertation projects and form a solid networking base for prospective careers.
  • World-leading facilities including two particle accelerators which can be used to simulate the effect of radiation on power plant components.

The University of Birmingham’s School of Metallurgy and Materials has a strong track record in the development of novel materials for extreme environments particularly through the design of novel compositions and microstructures. This MRes programme will develop a pipeline of skilled fusion engineers for this growing sector, bolstering the UK’s leadership in the commercialisation of fusion energy.

Amanda Quadling, Director of Materials Research, UKAEA


Core modules

  • Introduction to Materials Science (10 credits)
    The module is intended to introduce Materials Science to students with a first degree in physical science or engineering other than Materials. It will introduce the relationship between processing, microstructure and properties for the main classes of materials: metals, polymers, ceramics and composites.  The understanding of materials microstructures will be underpinned by knowledge of crystal structures and phase diagrams. The relationship between material microstructures and common physical and mechanical properties of materials will be introduced. This will be delivered with a focus on the Nuclear industry.  
  • Fusion (10 credits)
    The module covers the physics underpinning the production of electrical power by fusion reactors. It will introduce the basic nuclear physics of the processes of fusion, putting this in the context of nuclear binding energies. The ideas of fusion reactions in plasmas will be discussed as well as current and future reactor designs. The understanding of the transport of radiation through materials, and methods of designing appropriate shielding for radiation facilities will also be covered. 
  •  Advances in Materials and Manufacturing for Nuclear Environments (20 credits)
    This module covers the development of materials for nuclear fusion applications. This includes structural metals and alloys, composites and functional coatings. The manufacturing techniques of fusion materials including novel welding and additive manufacturing techniques and the resultant microstructures are described. The degradation of materials under fusion relevant conditions are described. This includes interaction between structural metals such as reduced activation ferritic martensitic steels with coolants (for instance water and liquid metal); reactivity of first wall material such as beryllium with air and steam, degradation of insulating ceramics under high temperature and neutron radiation. 
  • Irradiation Materials Science (10 credits)
    The purpose of this module is to provide a foundation for understanding the theory and mechanism behind the effects of irradiation on structural materials and fuel. The module will be divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the radiation damage process and provides the formalism for the prediction of the amount and spatial configuration of the damage produced by bombarding particles. The second part focuses on the physical and mechanical effects of radiation damage on materials.
  • Material and Manufacturing Certification, Intellectual Property and Project Management (10 credits)
    The module will develop an understanding of the use of international standards in the production and use of materials. It will explain the methods used to certify materials and manufacturing processes for use in safety critical applications. It will also develop an understanding intellectual property and methods to protect it, such as patents, as well as covering the basics of export control.  An understanding of the methods used in project management will be developed.  
  • Individual Research Project (120 credits)
    The research project is an independent comprehensive piece of novel research which is carried out in one of a broad range of topics related to Materials Science and Engineering over the full duration of the programme. These are conducted in any one of the Research Groups within the School of Metallurgy and Materials related to the students interests. This module will develop the student’s ability to work as an independent engineering/scientific research and develop their ability to critically evaluate the literature in the given subject as well as plan and conduct complex and novel experiments to address any research gaps found. 

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.


Annual Tuition Fees 2024/25 academic year

  • £4,778 UK students, full-time
  • £27,360 International students, full-time

Learn more about fees and funding.

  A bench fee may be required at £2,000 to cover costs of experimental project.

Postgraduate Loans (PGL) for Masters students

UK and EU students (with settled or pre-settled status) looking to pursue a Masters programme in the UK can apply for a non-means-tested loan from the British government via the Student Loans Company (SLC).

The loan will be paid directly to you, into a UK bank account. It is intended to provide a contribution towards the costs of Masters study and whether the loan is used towards fees, maintenance or other costs is at your own discretion.

Learn more about applying for PGL 


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.

 We have a number of sponsorship opportunities available to our students provided by UKAEA’s industrial partners. Please get in touch with our admissions tutor who can discuss the details further.

How To Apply

Learn more about applying. 

International students applying for this programme will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office before the University can issue you with a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). We recommend that you apply for your ATAS certificate as soon as you receive an offer from us.

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

Our Standard Requirements

A 2:1 Honours degree in a physical science or engineering subject. Learn more about entry requirements. 

International Requirements

International Students

English language

For students whose first language is not English, one of the following English language qualifications is required:

  • IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band
  • TOEFL: 80 overall with no less than 19 in Reading, 19 in Listening, 21 in Speaking and 19 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: Academic 64 with no less than 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 169, with no less than 162 in any component

International students applying for this programme will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office before the University can issue you with a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). We recommend that you apply for your ATAS certificate as soon as you receive an offer from us.

Research interests in the School of Metallurgy and Materials relevant to this programme

  • Advanced Materials Processing
    Driven by innovation in manufacturing methods, our work focuses on application in industry. Our extensive capability includes additive manufacturing, solidification technology and thermomechanical processing via experimental and modelling techniques.
  • Materials for Sustainability
    Our interests focus on technologically relevant energy materials, their modelling, characterisation and recyclability.
  • Nuclear Robotics
    The Birmingham Extreme Robotics Lab (ERL) is Europe’s most prominent university lab dedicated to nuclear and other extreme environment applications of advanced robotics and AI.
  • High Temperature Materials
    High operating temperature and pressures are necessary to increase the overall efficiency of power plant.  In order to reach these efficiencies new materials must be developed. The next generation of nuclear plant will operate at significantly higher temperatures. We are investing significantly in research and development in this area.
  • Ceramic Matrix Composites
    There is a good case to be made for using ceramic matrix composites in the next generation of nuclear reactors and development and evaluation of these materials is ongoing in the Institute.
  • Surface Engineering
    Current challenges for stainless steel and other alloy components include surface degradation through wear and corrosion.  We are investigating and developing novel surface engineering technologies that will significantly increase hardness, enhance corrosion resistance and increase wear resistance by up to two orders of magnitude.
  • Corrosion and Cracking
    We have significant experience and capability in understanding and developing materials to limit corrosion and cracking both in a nuclear plant and a nuclear waste storage context.  The majority of the activity in this area is in collaboration with national and international stakeholders and by its very nature is truly interdisciplinary.
  • Microstructure Characterisation and Modelling
    Radiation damage can cause significant changes within an alloy and the morphology of radiation damage needs to be understood so that it can be limited.  The team work closely with industry quantifying micro-structural development during alloy process routes, particularly determining distributions of grains and precipitates as they develop spatially and over time. 
  • Plant Life
    We have historically played an important role in understanding the basis for the long-term continued operation of nuclear plant.  This expertise will be vital in developing the next generation of materials for reactors of the future.

This unique one-year master course comprises five taught modules all taken in the first semester and an individual research project carried throughout the full year. The programme is currently delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, tutorials, project-based and laboratory-based teaching and learning methods.

In addition to technical modules, the course also provides training for transferable skills. You can expect to be exposed throughout to up-to-date knowledge of current and future trends in this field whilst developing the skills of critical evaluation and analysis that you will need as an scientist/engineer of tomorrow.

The research project involves carrying out full-time research for the entire of the academic year and can be carried out in the School of Metallurgy and Materials or within a company in industry. Research projects can take place in a broad range of topics related to Materials Science and Engineering in any of the research groups within the School of Metallurgy and Materials or with our industry collaborators.

Example of Materials for Fusion Energy MRes Research Projects

  • Effect of irradiation on the evolution of microstructure and properties of tungsten alloys
  • Design of irradiation resistant refractory high entropy alloys for fusion

Assessment Methods

The programme uses a diverse range of assessment methods to develop the skills required. This includes group and individual projects, critical reviews of subject material, laboratory reports, technical reports and presentations as well as traditional examinations.

Study part-time

The MRes programme can be studied on a part-time basis over the duration of two years. The programme can be split in various different ways to allow this. Please speak to us to discuss options.  

This programme is a response to the current skills shortage in this area and trains high quality graduates for the nuclear industry.

This is a growing sector and the demand for graduates will increase resulting in an excellent potential or rewarding careers.

The research element of the programme also equips our graduates to go on to further study for a PhD.

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.