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s5s
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So I've long been waiting to write this thread but I felt I had to finish my degree first and take a good look at the world so that I gain some life experience and let my head cool after Cambridge. Anyway, I did my engineering degree in Cambridge and I've tried to produce what I think of it. My main idea is that Cambridge status is overinflated as far as engineering goes. As engineering school it should be way down. Unfortunately it probably does get the best minds and serves them a **** education.

I will state my opinion early so that you have a clear vision when (and if) you read the rest of the discussion. It is my opinion that Imperial College is a better school than Cambridge as far as engineering goes. I think Cambridge is a rubbish university for doing engineering. I cannot comment on any other subject. I think this has been true for the past (10-20 years) although that is a theoretical guess based on how the history of the engineering profession and how the industry has changed. I should also point out that if you have no plans to work as an engineer after graduation then Cambridge might not be that much of a different choice than Imperial College for an engineering degree. Therefore, this discussion is mainly aimed at the people who want to work as engineers and are thinking of doing engineering at university level. As a small note before I start the main discussion. I think Cambridge is a bad engineering school for any engineering discipling but it's especially career ruining for the IEEE range of subjects.



First, lets look at the mixed course which I think is one of major problems and which ironically is one of the reasons people think Cambridge might be a good choice. I remember thinking that postponing the decision of specializing further 2 years will allow me to make a better choice. It really doesn't and you are at the same position you were 2 years ago and most likely can't make up your mind again because you happen to like all the disciplines equally. Trust me if you did mechanical engineering you will be as happy doing it as if you did civil or electrical. It is all engineering and engineering boils down to design and solving problems no matter whether you are designing a circuit or a software program or an engine flow problem. And if you still don't agree I should tell you that you will get plenty of chance to go into other fields as you graduate. But right now you need to focus on 1 thing and learn it well.

Furthermore, I do not think you have the luxury to postpone further 2 years. Life is a race and in other universities people are focused on mastering a particular discipline while you're running around doing bits and pieces of everything. Let's not forget – the reason you want to go to a good university is the same reason you want to go to a good 6th form college – it gives you a better chance of getting a good position on the next step of your life. Well your next step is getting into a good company at a good position and much like university these positions are limited. So a good engineering school is one that:
Teaches you what you need to know right now to be a good engineer and thus get into a good company.
Teaches you the skills you need to succeed in your future career and perform your job well.

The objective of teaching you well and teaching you the right things is accentuated even more because you only have 4 years to learn a good number of soft skills (presentations, report writing, how to find information, etc), get a good theoretical grounding in a certain area, learn how to apply this theory and learn a number of practical skills. So you want the university to teach you skills that will help you in the long run and in the short term. Now I hope you see why the 4 years (while enough) is better not to be wasted. You want to use those 4 years on things that will benefit you the most in the future. Otherwise stated you want the most benefit-dense course . The Cambridge engineering course is not benefit-dense. You minimize this detriment by doing mechanical, civil or aeronautical engineering but even for these disciplines there are better schools. For the IEEE range of disciplines it will destroy you as an engineer. There is no way to justify spending time on studying steel, concrete, bending beams, mechanics, structural mechanics when you are working as a software engineer and writing device drivers or a searching algorithm or your designing a circuit. 90% of your first 2 years is knowledge that you know you will not benefit you in any way in the future and you will never need. Meanwhile there is a lot of knowledge which you could have learned which will need and guess what - students at other universities are being taught that.

Supervisions are the other reason people think Cambridge is a better university. First, some background. Every 2 weeks you get a set of 10 or so questions per subject. You are supposed to do them and if you have any problems you can ask during the 1 hour supervisions (per subject). Your work is not marked but is a way to monitor you. Sounds good? Sure but the reality is that you will have done 8-9 out of the 10 questions and usually you would have problems with the last 1-2 questions. Now you have to get to the supervision (takes time) and wait 40 min till you get to the last questions. Now the supervisor will explain where your mistake is verbally. What happens when you leave the supervision is that you forget about the problem because you have to focus on the next set of questions and let's be honest – it takes a lot of discipline to go back and write down the complete solution on a problem in the past. Needless to say a much better approach (employed by 1000s of universities) is to just release a detailed solution. With such a document you can go through the solution step by step in your own time (which might take more than 20 min) and also look at your lecture notes.

A much worse complication of the supervision system is that it dictates how and when you study. You have supervisions every week and you have to have done the work for them. Some people don't study that way. University is different from College. There are a lot of ideas spawned by students spending days and weeks working on side projects instead of doing their university questions papers. For all we know Facebook might not be here if Zuckerberg was in Cambridge because he would have been pressured to do his question papers. I'm not saying he couldn't have done both but again – life is a race and as we know fresh ideas usually come up into several people's heads simultaneously. For me that's the reality of it. A solution paper made available will always be preferred to listening to someone tell me the solution verbally. At least in my college nobody liked supervisions. I can't say they thought they were not beneficial – I think most thought they were. I on the other hand am saying that it is much less effective than providing the solutions. One thing that cannot be argued is that they do provide a monitoring mechanism. I think there are much better ways to monitor that students are doing their work. And let's not forget that monitoring should not be needed. These are not 7 year olds – these are university students. If they cannot control themselves to do the work who's going to control them when they graduate? Being disciplined is part of being smart and successful. As I come to think of it right now it seems to me the supervision system is just an old relic.

The course content – very poorly structured. After your first 2 years during which you've wasted most of your time you are allowed to pick modules from a certain range. Sounds lucrative but the range is very limited and if you want your course to make sense you really have 2 choices – focus on group A of modules or group B. If you are IEEE you are not allowed to chose modules from the Computer Science department. You might think “A sounds choice”. Not in Cambridge. The IEEE range includes areas such as DSP, Communications, Computer systems, Software engineering etc. Having worked in those areas I can tell you the course in Cambridge does not offer what you need even if you know you need it at the time you pick your modules. The Computer Science course does offer it BUT you are not allowed to borrow modules apart from 1 predetermined module. Thus you cannot make a more appropriate mix from both the Engineering tripos and the CS tripos even if the IEEE would accredit your combination. This whole experience is based solely on the fact that the course contents have never helped me in my career or getting a job. This is not the experience of a lot of the people I've worked with who went to other universities. I pretty much had to come up with my own course and study it along the Cambridge course so that I can get a job. In a lot of interviews (most were successful ) I was only once asked about my 4th year project (which was dead boring) and I was once asked a control theory question. All other questions were answered not thanks to lecturers in Cambridge. For me that's a poor performance on the side of the university. I trust that they know what I need to study to be a successful and good engineer. I can't say whether they do or they don't but I can say certainly didn't teach me the right things.

There is another thing that I find damaging in Cambridge. You have ridiculous 2h small labs which you're guaranteed to get the marks for and you have 2 every week. Not only that but you don't even have to write a report. You have to fill in blanks...The equations are already provided so you don't even need to know the theory as you can quickly get what it is from the handout. It's a waste of 2h and nothing stays in your head except the fact that it was early and you were in the department building. What I'm trying to say is that there's very little original work being done. I'd much rather have longer experiments that require understanding of the theory and maybe several lab sessions. There are what they call Long Term Reports (I think that's what it was called) but there are only 2 and they aren't much bigger. Although I should say they were better and I learned something.

Now comes the problem with lecture notes. First Cambridge Engineering department is the only science department I know which does not necessarily provide it's notes online, not even to students with university accounts. Some courses provide notes, some don't. In an age in which respectable universities (MIT) have all of their course open to the public with lecture notes and videos I find Cambridge behaviour despicable. The reason it's done is so that you will go to the lectures. I think that should be up to the student and I think the student has the right to have a copy of the notes.
The content of the lecture notes is often rubbish. It looks more like reference notes on the theory and not something which is aimed at teaching a person who knows little on the subject. A lot of things are not explained, some things are assumed but the assumptions not stated, symbols not stated and used not for their standard meaning. Some notes are good (as they should be). In most cases I have the feeling the lecturer was too busy and said I couldn't be bothered.

The name Cambridge might sound prestigious to you but it will not help you more than Imperial College in advancing to the next step – a good career. The fact is above a certain level of quality, it really doesn't matter what university you've been to. When you go to an interview chances are it's not going to matter whether you got your engineering degree from Nottingham uni or from Cambridge or from Imperial. What would matter is your knowledge and skills. Chances are Cambridge would have been too theoretical and you would not have had the time or the assistance and encouragement to do anything practical. Nottingham and Imperial would have prepared you with a more useful combination of theory and practical knowledge. And don't forget – the engineers working for the company and the people interviewing you most likely didn't go to Cambridge so they wouldn't consider you having an advantage over them simply because you did so they don't care that you went to Cambridge. For them it's as good as if you had gone to their university. That's how your Cambridge “advantage” simply evaporates. It pretty much boils down to this – do you think a diploma from Cambridge is a ticket that opens doors and are you ready to be left with a piece of paper vs. being left with skills and knowledge.

I'd compare the Cambridge course to making you study random number sequences – hard but of not much use. I wouldn't even say the course is particularly hard – you have plenty of free time. I would say that if you want to be an engineer and create things then you'll have to learn this somewhere else. There are so many things that the course in Cambridge doesn't cover yet they give you a diploma in that field that it's astonishing people think it's a good university. I get the feeling they are sifting the students to find people suitable for being postdocs but the 99% that don't stay to become postdocs are completely screwed.

Finally, the students who go there are smart because of this myth that it's a good university. For me it's like a bubble that's not burst so far but I hope it does. Just make sure before you accept an offer that you research and look at what you are going to study and how the course is structured and the course contents. Make sure you compare it to other universities and look at what is required in the industry where you want to work. Really, don't care about the name – it means nothing in real life. I've seen very unsuccessful Cambridge Engineering graduates and I'm sure they can't really use their name when the guy from Manchester or whatever passes them by in his Porsche.

EDIT: PS I know some people who wanted to do Electrical Engineering and got an offer from Cambridge and Imperial and chose Imperial. I thought they were crazy. I now understand them. if you're doing IEEE run away from Cambridge.

EDIT2: I'm not sure that's a problem only in Cambridge but Jesus Christ we are engineers. I know you need to be able to learn quickly but you also need to be creative. All (note I say all not most) of the exams and tests in Cambridge are whether you've memorized something. The teaching is no different. In the real world (and on interviews) you really need to be creative as often you will have to make up a solution. No, you can't read about it - you have to invent one yourself. There was none of this in my engineering education that I can remember. They never put any effort to produce problems which involved us using existing knowledge in an unconventional way or in a way we haven't seen before. Maybe someone else has other experience from another discipline but I'd say IEEE range is one of the areas where you can be most creative.
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(Original post by s5s)
So I've long been waiting to write this thread but I felt I had to finish my degree first and take a good look at the world so that I gain some life experience and let my head cool after Cambridge. Anyway, I did my engineering degree in Cambridge and I've tried to produce what I think of it. My main idea is that Cambridge status is overinflated as far as engineering goes. As engineering school it should be way down. Unfortunately it probably does get the best minds and serves them a **** education.

I will state my opinion early so that you have a clear vision when (and if) you read the rest of the discussion. It is my opinion that Imperial College is a better school than Cambridge as far as engineering goes. I think Cambridge is a rubbish university for doing engineering. I cannot comment on any other subject. I think this has been true for the past (10-20 years) although that is a theoretical guess based on how the history of the engineering profession and how the industry has changed. I should also point out that if you have no plans to work as an engineer after graduation then Cambridge might not be that much of a different choice than Imperial College for an engineering degree. Therefore, this discussion is mainly aimed at the people who want to work as engineers and are thinking of doing engineering at university level. As a small note before I start the main discussion. I think Cambridge is a bad engineering school for any engineering discipling but it's especially career ruining for the IEEE range of subjects.



First, lets look at the mixed course which I think is one of major problems and which ironically is one of the reasons people think Cambridge might be a good choice. I remember thinking that postponing the decision of specializing further 2 years will allow me to make a better choice. It really doesn't and you are at the same position you were 2 years ago and most likely can't make up your mind again because you happen to like all the disciplines equally. Trust me if you did mechanical engineering you will be as happy doing it as if you did civil or electrical. It is all engineering and engineering boils down to design and solving problems no matter whether you are designing a circuit or a software program or an engine flow problem. And if you still don't agree I should tell you that you will get plenty of chance to go into other fields as you graduate. But right now you need to focus on 1 thing and learn it well.

Furthermore, I do not think you have the luxury to postpone further 2 years. Life is a race and in other universities people are focused on mastering a particular discipline while you're running around doing bits and pieces of everything. Let's not forget – the reason you want to go to a good university is the same reason you want to go to a good 6th form college – it gives you a better chance of getting a good position on the next step of your life. Well your next step is getting into a good company at a good position and much like university these positions are limited. So a good engineering school is one that:
Teaches you what you need to know right now to be a good engineer and thus get into a good company.
Teaches you the skills you need to succeed in your future career and perform your job well.

The objective of teaching you well and teaching you the right things is accentuated even more because you only have 4 years to learn a good number of soft skills (presentations, report writing, how to find information, etc), get a good theoretical grounding in a certain area, learn how to apply this theory and learn a number of practical skills. So you want the university to teach you skills that will help you in the long run and in the short term. Now I hope you see why the 4 years (while enough) is better not to be wasted. You want to use those 4 years on things that will benefit you the most in the future. Otherwise stated you want the most benefit-dense course . The Cambridge engineering course is not benefit-dense. You minimize this detriment by doing mechanical, civil or aeronautical engineering but even for these disciplines there are better schools. For the IEEE range of disciplines it will destroy you as an engineer. There is no way to justify spending time on studying steel, concrete, bending beams, mechanics, structural mechanics when you are working as a software engineer and writing device drivers or a searching algorithm or your designing a circuit. 90% of your first 2 years is knowledge that you know you will not benefit you in any way in the future and you will never need. Meanwhile there is a lot of knowledge which you could have learned which will need and guess what - students at other universities are being taught that.

Supervisions are the other reason people think Cambridge is a better university. First, some background. Every 2 weeks you get a set of 10 or so questions per subject. You are supposed to do them and if you have any problems you can ask during the 1 hour supervisions (per subject). Your work is not marked but is a way to monitor you. Sounds good? Sure but the reality is that you will have done 8-9 out of the 10 questions and usually you would have problems with the last 1-2 questions. Now you have to get to the supervision (takes time) and wait 40 min till you get to the last questions. Now the supervisor will explain where your mistake is verbally. What happens when you leave the supervision is that you forget about the problem because you have to focus on the next set of questions and let's be honest – it takes a lot of discipline to go back and write down the complete solution on a problem in the past. Needless to say a much better approach (employed by 1000s of universities) is to just release a detailed solution. With such a document you can go through the solution step by step in your own time (which might take more than 20 min) and also look at your lecture notes.

A much worse complication of the supervision system is that it dictates how and when you study. You have supervisions every week and you have to have done the work for them. Some people don't study that way. University is different from College. There are a lot of ideas spawned by students spending days and weeks working on side projects instead of doing their university questions papers. For all we know Facebook might not be here if Zuckerberg was in Cambridge because he would have been pressured to do his question papers. I'm not saying he couldn't have done both but again – life is a race and as we know fresh ideas usually come up into several people's heads simultaneously. For me that's the reality of it. A solution paper made available will always be preferred to listening to someone tell me the solution verbally. At least in my college nobody liked supervisions. I can't say they thought they were not beneficial – I think most thought they were. I on the other hand am saying that it is much less effective than providing the solutions. One thing that cannot be argued is that they do provide a monitoring mechanism. I think there are much better ways to monitor that students are doing their work. And let's not forget that monitoring should not be needed. These are not 7 year olds – these are university students. If they cannot control themselves to do the work who's going to control them when they graduate? Being disciplined is part of being smart and successful. As I come to think of it right now it seems to me the supervision system is just an old relic.

The course content – very poorly structured. After your first 2 years during which you've wasted most of your time you are allowed to pick modules from a certain range. Sounds lucrative but the range is very limited and if you want your course to make sense you really have 2 choices – focus on group A of modules or group B. If you are IEEE you are not allowed to chose modules from the Computer Science department. You might think “A sounds choice”. Not in Cambridge. The IEEE range includes areas such as DSP, Communications, Computer systems, Software engineering etc. Having worked in those areas I can tell you the course in Cambridge does not offer what you need even if you know you need it at the time you pick your modules. The Computer Science course does offer it BUT you are not allowed to borrow modules apart from 1 predetermined module. Thus you cannot make a more appropriate mix from both the Engineering tripos and the CS tripos even if the IEEE would accredit your combination. This whole experience is based solely on the fact that the course contents have never helped me in my career or getting a job. This is not the experience of a lot of the people I've worked with who went to other universities. I pretty much had to come up with my own course and study it along the Cambridge course so that I can get a job. In a lot of interviews (most were successful ) I was only once asked about my 4th year project (which was dead boring) and I was once asked a control theory question. All other questions were answered not thanks to lecturers in Cambridge. For me that's a poor performance on the side of the university. I trust that they know what I need to study to be a successful and good engineer. I can't say whether they do or they don't but I can say certainly didn't teach me the right things.

There is another thing that I find damaging in Cambridge. You have ridiculous 2h small labs which you're guaranteed to get the marks for and you have 2 every week. Not only that but you don't even have to write a report. You have to fill in blanks...The equations are already provided so you don't even need to know the theory as you can quickly get what it is from the handout. It's a waste of 2h and nothing stays in your head except the fact that it was early and you were in the department building. What I'm trying to say is that there's very little original work being done. I'd much rather have longer experiments that require understanding of the theory and maybe several lab sessions. There are what they call Long Term Reports (I think that's what it was called) but there are only 2 and they aren't much bigger. Although I should say they were better and I learned something.

Now comes the problem with lecture notes. First Cambridge Engineering department is the only science department I know which does not necessarily provide it's notes online, not even to students with university accounts. Some courses provide notes, some don't. In an age in which respectable universities (MIT) have all of their course open to the public with lecture notes and videos I find Cambridge behaviour despicable. The reason it's done is so that you will go to the lectures. I think that should be up to the student and I think the student has the right to have a copy of the notes.
The content of the lecture notes is often rubbish. It looks more like reference notes on the theory and not something which is aimed at teaching a person who knows little on the subject. A lot of things are not explained, some things are assumed but the assumptions not stated, symbols not stated and used not for their standard meaning. Some notes are good (as they should be). In most cases I have the feeling the lecturer was too busy and said I couldn't be bothered.

The name Cambridge might sound prestigious to you but it will not help you more than Imperial College in advancing to the next step – a good career. The fact is above a certain level of quality, it really doesn't matter what university you've been to. When you go to an interview chances are it's not going to matter whether you got your engineering degree from Nottingham uni or from Cambridge or from Imperial. What would matter is your knowledge and skills. Chances are Cambridge would have been too theoretical and you would not have had the time or the assistance and encouragement to do anything practical. Nottingham and Imperial would have prepared you with a more useful combination of theory and practical knowledge. And don't forget – the engineers working for the company and the people interviewing you most likely didn't go to Cambridge so they wouldn't consider you having an advantage over them simply because you did so they don't care that you went to Cambridge. For them it's as good as if you had gone to their university. That's how your Cambridge “advantage” simply evaporates. It pretty much boils down to this – do you think a diploma from Cambridge is a ticket that opens doors and are you ready to be left with a piece of paper vs. being left with skills and knowledge.

I'd compare the Cambridge course to making you study random number sequences – hard but of not much use. I wouldn't even say the course is particularly hard – you have plenty of free time. I would say that if you want to be an engineer and create things then you'll have to learn this somewhere else. There are so many things that the course in Cambridge doesn't cover yet they give you a diploma in that field that it's astonishing people think it's a good university. I get the feeling they are sifting the students to find people suitable for being postdocs but the 99% that don't stay to become postdocs are completely screwed.

Finally, the students who go there are smart because of this myth that it's a good university. For me it's like a bubble that's not burst so far but I hope it does. Just make sure before you accept an offer that you research and look at what you are going to study and how the course is structured and the course contents. Make sure you compare it to other universities and look at what is required in the industry where you want to work. Really, don't care about the name – it means nothing in real life. I've seen very unsuccessful Cambridge Engineering graduates and I'm sure they can't really use their name when the guy from Manchester or whatever passes them by in his Porsche.

EDIT: PS I know some people who wanted to do Electrical Engineering and got an offer from Cambridge and Imperial and chose Imperial. I thought they were crazy. I now understand them. if you're doing IEEE run away from Cambridge.

EDIT2: I'm not sure that's a problem only in Cambridge but Jesus Christ we are engineers. I know you need to be able to learn quickly but you also need to be creative. All (note I say all not most) of the exams and tests in Cambridge are whether you've memorized something. The teaching is no different. In the real world (and on interviews) you really need to be creative as often you will have to make up a solution. No, you can't read about it - you have to invent one yourself. There was none of this in my engineering education that I can remember. They never put any effort to produce problems which involved us using existing knowledge in an unconventional way or in a way we haven't seen before. Maybe someone else has other experience from another discipline but I'd say IEEE range is one of the areas where you can be most creative.
Now that you have graduated, what career path have you chosen?

Problem is, most UK engineering graduates (from Imperial as well as other universities) have not chosen to pursue an engineering career but instead have been lured away by the big bucks in the City.

Those international graduates (and Imperial has a fair few) return to their respective countries and have a better chance of putting their education to use, especially the Far East, where a new skyscraper is added to the skyline, virtually every week!
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s5s
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While at Cambridge I did placements for engineering companies and a bank. I rejected the bank offer and went into engineering. And yes, a lot students from Cambridge do not go into engineering. The bad thing is that Cambridge itself turns them away. Some my friends from university wanted to go into engineering from day 1. In year 4 a large portion of those had no such intention. But trust me - there's a lot of engineering going on in Europe. Sure manufacturing is in Asia but it's easy to manufacture - it's harder to invent.
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The Cambridge course does have its advantages with its general approach and some of the problems you highlighted occur at other universities (including Imperial); but you do make some valid points. A practical subject like Engineering needs a practical approach. It's a shame you didn't feel your degree met your expectations but I hope you have gone on to do well =]

With regards to students facing problems with the way their course is delivered (i.e. lack of problem sheet solutions) it is a good idea to feedback about this to your personal tutor or the relevant person. Of course they can and probably will just do nothing, but if enough students raise complaints, it is in the department's best interests to do something about it. There have been many noticeable changes to aspects of our course as a result of student feedback.
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Yes, I agree. I cannot comment directly what Imperial is like - I can just comment what Cambridge is like. If someone did engineering at Imperial he can comment and compare. However, I dare say Imperial has better connections because most prestigious engineering companies have offices in London and from what I've seen they are better connected. All the finance sector jobs are mostly in London as well. I would also say student life in London is a lot better (personal experience) but it is more expensive.
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There doesn't appear to be many complaints with regard to the social aspect at Cambridge but rather more at Imperial.

It could be because one expects to be working hard at Cambridge and less so at Imperial.
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Cambridge is very social. The only thing I didn't like is that it's a small town with **** clubs. You don't have much choice and you'll probably manage to go to all worthwhile places during your freshers week. London is much better as far as going out is concerned.
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(Original post by s5s)
Cambridge is very social. The only thing I didn't like is that it's a small town with sh*t clubs. You don't have much choice and you'll probably manage to go to all worthwhile places during your freshers week. London is much better as far as going out is concerned.
But I hear there are very few people to go out with at Imperial

Even though I have no interest in this post (not a prospective Engineer) I think it's helpful to see an opposing side to the people who have positive things to say. You clearly put in a lot of effort writing this so kudos to you, I'm sure there'll be many people here who'll thank you for it..

If you don't mind me saying - it seems like you're much more interested in computer science than engineering. Did it just not occur to you to do computer science instead - if you had researched more beforehand you could've probably seen most of the modules you were interested in were Computer Science?
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Imperial college is over 60% male so I'm sure the social life at Cambridge is better
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Well you needn't limit yourself to the opposite sex from your university only . There's plenty of fish for both genders in London.

I wouldn't say I am more interested in Computer Science. Computer Science and some engineering disciplines come very close and overlap. Let's not forget that unlike engineering CS doesn't have disciplines and every topic goes under one big discipline - Computer Science. Here's an illustration from a book I read while at Cambridge (look at 8 and 9 o'clock):

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At the time I could have gone any way and I wasn't excluding any discipline till the last moment. I wouldn't switch to CS even if I had the opportunity. I'm just saying that if you're studying electronics or computer/hardware engineering which the Engineering course offers it might make sense to take a module on microcontrollers or operating systems (available in the CS tripos, not allowed to engineers). If I had to draw it here is how it looks:

|<---Information/Computer Engineering--->|<---Overlap--->|<---Computer Science--->|

This overlap is important. On the rightmost side of Computer Science you might be doing very high level stuff (by high level I mean far away from hardware). On the leftmost side of Engineering you'll be doing stuff such as control, systems signals etc. Such engineers can design control circuits of engines, turbines, planes and computers. Near the overlap however, is another field which I feel is made unreachable by the engineering department. Unfortunately the spectrum above is not continuous. On the engineering side (I can't comment about the CS side) you only have two options which make sense - either strongly to the left or strongly to the right. But you can't enter the overlap. In my experience the overlap which from the engineering perspective consists of some CS modules is very important and the modules are much more beneficial. It's a better thought out combination.
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Given this review, I'd say you chose Cambridge for all the wrong reasons. If you knew that you wanted to do electrical engineering from the get go, then you should have looked at the course and seen it was not for you. If you went on name alone, it's not Cambridge's fault that you didn't check the course details.
If you didn't know before you went, then are you surprised you spent the first 2 years doing a broad range of areas? It's what you chose.

The tripos system does have very big advantages to engineers going into other fields, which are much more interdisciplinary and they are able to swap fields more fluidly (the jump from aerospace to civil is not that large for example, as both contain large amounts of structural work.) where having knowledge of other fields is useful and where over the course of their career they are very likely to swap fields.

Also, while I can't comment specifically on IEEE content, I know that most triposes cover all the same material as specialist courses at other universities to the same depth. (Partly because those first 2 years have to be retrodden in most courses)

You also seem to be looking for a level of explanation from the lectures that wont be present in engineering courses, but you'd need to do physics to get. You may be dissatisfied, but that's another thing that you signed up for at the start. Or go to one of the many fantastic libraries you are provided with and read through a book - most of your courses will have a more in depth book written specifically for them by the academics, and stocked in your college free of charge. As engineers you get spoon fed a lot, but understand that there aren't comprehensive notes for everything in your future life, at some point you will have to go do your own study.

If the lecturer isn't updating Camtools, then bug them about it. You can't really complain if you haven't tried such an easy solution. One oddity with Oxbridge is that the students are much more reluctant to make these sorts of requests, I can only presume it's to do with the supervision system meaning there is an alternate route of enquiry for most things, and so students are less confident approaching the lecturers.
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s5s
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(Original post by The Mr Z)
Given this review, I'd say you chose Cambridge for all the wrong reasons. If you knew that you wanted to do electrical engineering from the get go, then you should have looked at the course and seen it was not for you. If you went on name alone, it's not Cambridge's fault that you didn't check the course details.
If you didn't know before you went, then are you surprised you spent the first 2 years doing a broad range of areas? It's what you chose.

The tripos system does have very big advantages to engineers going into other fields, which are much more interdisciplinary and they are able to swap fields more fluidly (the jump from aerospace to civil is not that large for example, as both contain large amounts of structural work.) where having knowledge of other fields is useful and where over the course of their career they are very likely to swap fields.

Also, while I can't comment specifically on IEEE content, I know that most triposes cover all the same material as specialist courses at other universities to the same depth. (Partly because those first 2 years have to be retrodden in most courses)

You also seem to be looking for a level of explanation from the lectures that wont be present in engineering courses, but you'd need to do physics to get. You may be dissatisfied, but that's another thing that you signed up for at the start. Or go to one of the many fantastic libraries you are provided with and read through a book - most of your courses will have a more in depth book written specifically for them by the academics, and stocked in your college free of charge. As engineers you get spoon fed a lot, but understand that there aren't comprehensive notes for everything in your future life, at some point you will have to go do your own study.

If the lecturer isn't updating Camtools, then bug them about it. You can't really complain if you haven't tried such an easy solution. One oddity with Oxbridge is that the students are much more reluctant to make these sorts of requests, I can only presume it's to do with the supervision system meaning there is an alternate route of enquiry for most things, and so students are less confident approaching the lecturers.
You'd be surprised how many people go to Cambridge for name alone. I mentioned several times that students need to carefully examine the course at a university and determine whether they are happy with it. Electronics in university A might be a different course than electronics at university B because electronics is a large field.

That's why I wrote the whole thing. Also don't focus on Civil and Aerospace. These 2 disciplines are not that bad in Cambridge. I still think they are better taught at other universities. Why would a hardware engineer care about beam bending? Or know the details of how steel changes states given chemical composition and temperature. As a matter of fact a hardware engineer will benefit from materials knowledge - silicon is a material and is usually studied in other universities. Not in Cambridge. There the material course only looks at "construction" materials and mainly steel alloys. That's why I said IEEE are screwed, civil, mech, aero not so much.

The material course at Imperial includes chemistry, electromagnetics (and specifically how it relates to materials) and they study (as far as I remember) not only metals. I agree that metals are an important part of material science but the silicon industry is 10% of the world economy (that was a long time ago - it's probably more now). Why they don't teach it is beyond me.

And it sort of is Cambridge's fault. When you enter as a student to any university you trust them to educate you and teach you the right things. If people knew what topics they have to cover to become say an Electronics engineer then they would just learn it by themselves. I knowing what you need is an effect of being educated and experienced in a particular field. That's the hard part - getting the course right and learning the important things at the start. I believe Cambridge fails miserably in this task especially for the IEEE range.

What else, oh yeah. I was reading a lot of extra engineering books while at Cambridge because I was dissatisfied with the notes and course content. I was told to stop doing it. I was told to only look at the lectures notes. A supervisor told me that. At the time I thought what he meant was - don't bother about the quality of your knowledge and what you know - just care about passing exams.

I doubt the Cambridge course covers all fields to the same dept. That has not been my experience. But even if it does there is a problem! If the Cambridge course covers all the electronics that Imperial covers then the students in Cambridge must be doing a lot more work as they have to cover all the other BS such as materials, structural mechanics, dynamics...you get the picture. I would say rather than wasting their time with that crap which they are never going to use they can just teach them more and more electronics so that they are better than everyone else. Similarly the structural engineers will learn more of civil engineering topics. Learning just in case you need it in the future is pointless. You might need it you might not and even if you do you'll most likely have forgotten it. Besides any graduate engineer should be able to learn several topics in another field quickly and without any problem. If a software engineer is working with civil engineers then he should be able to pick up things quickly to get to speed and then learn as he goes along. Shouldn't take him long at all.

The engineering dep. rarely uses Camtools. When i was there (and I doubt they've changed) lecturers who provide electronic versions of their notes would put them on their website.
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Sharri5
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I've known this for a while
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The Mr Z
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(Original post by s5s)
You'd be surprised how many people go to Cambridge for name alone. I mentioned several times that students need to carefully examine the course at a university and determine whether they are happy with it. Electronics in university A might be a different course than electronics at university B because electronics is a large field.

That's why I wrote the whole thing. Also don't focus on Civil and Aerospace. These 2 disciplines are not that bad in Cambridge. I still think they are better taught at other universities. Why would a hardware engineer care about beam bending? Or know the details of how steel changes states given chemical composition and temperature. As a matter of fact a hardware engineer will benefit from materials knowledge - silicon is a material and is usually studied in other universities. Not in Cambridge. There the material course only looks at "construction" materials and mainly steel alloys. That's why I said IEEE are screwed, civil, mech, aero not so much.

The material course at Imperial includes chemistry, electromagnetics (and specifically how it relates to materials) and they study (as far as I remember) not only metals. I agree that metals are an important part of material science but the silicon industry is 10% of the world economy (that was a long time ago - it's probably more now). Why they don't teach it is beyond me.

And it sort of is Cambridge's fault. When you enter as a student to any university you trust them to educate you and teach you the right things. If people knew what topics they have to cover to become say an Electronics engineer then they would just learn it by themselves. I knowing what you need is an effect of being educated and experienced in a particular field. That's the hard part - getting the course right and learning the important things at the start. I believe Cambridge fails miserably in this task especially for the IEEE range.

What else, oh yeah. I was reading a lot of extra engineering books while at Cambridge because I was dissatisfied with the notes and course content. I was told to stop doing it. I was told to only look at the lectures notes. A supervisor told me that. At the time I thought what he meant was - don't bother about the quality of your knowledge and what you know - just care about passing exams.

I doubt the Cambridge course covers all fields to the same dept. That has not been my experience. But even if it does there is a problem! If the Cambridge course covers all the electronics that Imperial covers then the students in Cambridge must be doing a lot more work as they have to cover all the other BS such as materials, structural mechanics, dynamics...you get the picture. I would say rather than wasting their time with that crap which they are never going to use they can just teach them more and more electronics so that they are better than everyone else. Similarly the structural engineers will learn more of civil engineering topics. Learning just in case you need it in the future is pointless. You might need it you might not and even if you do you'll most likely have forgotten it. Besides any graduate engineer should be able to learn several topics in another field quickly and without any problem. If a software engineer is working with civil engineers then he should be able to pick up things quickly to get to speed and then learn as he goes along. Shouldn't take him long at all.

The engineering dep. rarely uses Camtools. When i was there (and I doubt they've changed) lecturers who provide electronic versions of their notes would put them on their website.
I would not be surprised in the slightest. Not one iota. I know the only reason I actually checked the courses was because my school insisted I should understand the differences between NatSci at Cam and straight Physics at Oxford.

I do Materials Science, you'll have no argument from me that your materials course is rubbish and half-hearted. But then I'd also say that Imperial's was too, even if to a marginally lesser extent.

I'm not saying you should already know everything you need to know, but you should know what it is, roughly, you need to learn, or at least be able to recognise it. It's not hard to look at a course like Cambridge's and recognise that most of the modules are not electrical ones. It's in the course titles. You may not know every little thing you need to know, but you can know that much of the course is redundant.
Telling you what it is you will need to learn is not education - what you have come to Cambridge for is the lecture courses, practicals and supervisions that actually TEACH you what you need to know, without ever having to pick up a book and teach yourself. (Although they do also offer books that you will not be able to find outside of Cambridge, if you do want to do some independent study)

I believe Cambridge does cover things to the same depth, or very close to it. It's part of the requirements for certification that certain things must be covered to a sufficient level of profficiency. And actually, you'd be right in saying Cambridge students work a lot harder. I know people at Imperial, Durham, LSE etc and their Cambridge equivalents do a lot more work, a lot more intensely.
(You can argue the relative merits of that until the cows come home, but with all the knowledge I have I would say it is factually the case that Cambridge students do substantially more work, in every subject.)

Whether you think it completely redundant or not is a matter of opinion. I will point out however that there is no way the degree is the end of your learning or that your career will be a straight path following your degree choice, and that having had experience of the mind-set of other types of engineering is going to help you much more when you need to work alongside them than the specific knowledge ever will, and that is something you can't ever get from a single-discipline course.

Get them to post them up on their own pages then (I know physics do this), there's no excuse not to request this.



The interesting thing is that I was aware of most of this before applying to Cambridge, and you seem surprised by it. I presume that I must have found sources of information which told me all I needed to know.
If your motivation is truly to provide one of these sources of information, I feel you should have written your piece in a much more factual and objective manner, rather than the overly critical and one-sided piece you have provided, and left it up to others to decide whether the course will suit them.
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superfoggy
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I think a lot of what you said is very true. I think you should email the head of engineering about this. I attempted a similar thing last year but i backed out after sending only a brief email, i feared doing anything while still an undergrad. The lab system is indeed horrendous. The solutions to example papers i had to get from other students, and they really make things easier. Lectures in general are terrible. I had to sift through the bowels of the cambridge website to find their hidden section of 2nd year notes they have only for MIT students transferring to 3rd year. Electronics courses are a waste of time. Very few students specialise in that area and it shows with lack of input to the course. The notes i found online were over 15 years old and identical to the notes they handed out last year. I do fluids now' its stil atrocious, example questions testing whether i csn do 2 pages of fourier series flawlessly or integrate by parts 3 times. They overemphasise anything thats hard. Like my materials supervisor last year told me. They love things like mechanical models of polymers. No one uses them, and theyre useless as **** , but its mathsy and hard!

I hate engineering.
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The Mr Z
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(Original post by superfoggy)
I think a lot of what you said is very true. I think you should email the head of engineering about this. I attempted a similar thing last year but i backed out after sending only a brief email, i feared doing anything while still an undergrad. The lab system is indeed horrendous. The solutions to example papers i had to get from other students, and they really make things easier. Lectures in general are terrible. I had to sift through the bowels of the cambridge website to find their hidden section of 2nd year notes they have only for MIT students transferring to 3rd year. Electronics courses are a waste of time. Very few students specialise in that area and it shows with lack of input to the course. The notes i found online were over 15 years old and identical to the notes they handed out last year. I do fluids now' its stil atrocious, example questions testing whether i csn do 2 pages of fourier series flawlessly or integrate by parts 3 times. They overemphasise anything thats hard. Like my materials supervisor last year told me. They love things like mechanical models of polymers. No one uses them, and theyre useless as **** , but its mathsy and hard!

I hate engineering.
If that's how you feel then you really shouldn't back out. They're meant to seek student feedback, and are banned from discriminating against you in any way by the Uni rules.

If you're uncomfortable approaching them directly, get your faculty rep or DoS to forwards the feedback to them, or even get CUSU to look into it.
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GuitarMilesy
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(Original post by s5s)
First, lets look at the mixed course which I think is one of major problems and which ironically is one of the reasons people think Cambridge might be a good choice. I remember thinking that postponing the decision of specializing further 2 years will allow me to make a better choice. It really doesn't and you are at the same position you were 2 years ago and most likely can't make up your mind again because you happen to like all the disciplines equally. Trust me if you did mechanical engineering you will be as happy doing it as if you did civil or electrical. It is all engineering and engineering boils down to design and solving problems no matter whether you are designing a circuit or a software program or an engine flow problem. And if you still don't agree I should tell you that you will get plenty of chance to go into other fields as you graduate. But right now you need to focus on 1 thing and learn it well.
As someone currently studying mechanical engineering at Imperial, I can kinda empathise with this. Even within the narrower, more focused range of modules we take, there are several I'll most likely never have the need for again. Even so, the majority of my time has been spent learning fundamentals that I'll use in the future.

I couldn't imagine taking the Cambridge course, with such a vast spread of topics - when specialising after 2 years I would feel like I'd only benefited from a small fraction of my studies and wasted a massive amount of time! Must be pretty weird :-/
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s5s
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I was a bit busy lately at work with releases and too many meetings. Anyway, I recently found some of my 4th year notes and I remembered that for the whole of the 4th year I didn't use my calculator once. All of the 8 modules I was taking (with the exception of the business module) were just proofs and derivations. That's how the exams were as well - I remember that very well. It was all just "prove this", "derive that". That's great - an engineer has to know these things and understand them but he/she has to be tested on applying them. The proofs and the derivations are there so that you can see where the method comes from and understand it's fundamentals. It is understood that you will have gone through them. I see no benefit of testing them on the exam. I see a benefit on testing the application/understanding of the rules and methods.

Anyway, I recently talk to a friend who's still doing engineering at Imperial and I'm really jealous at what they have included in their course.
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Blutooth
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Well done for writing this thread-it's good to hear an alternative opinions on a Cambridge course. However, don't you think that a more concise summary of each of your main points would have delivered more impact?
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Dirac Delta Function
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If I were an employer, I'd still pick the Cambridge grads. They're just smarter. Most stuff you do at uni you won't apply in your first job anyway, and after your first job, it doesn't really matter.

Raw natural talent, on the other hand, that's some valuable shiz.
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