The course

Full-time, Part-time, Distance learning
Course type
Edinburgh, Online
Entry date



This programme is designed for graduates and practising engineers who wish to improve their knowledge of structural and foundation engineering. The structure and content of the programme has been carefully designed following liaison with a wide range of employers in the sector.

This programme builds directly on staff research activities which comprise experimental, numerical and theoretical work. Students also have access to excellent practical facilities for static, dynamic and impact testing. Advanced computer and networking facilities, including state-of-the-art parallel processing capability, are also available.

Flexible study options

This programme can be studied full-time, part-time or online via Independent Distance Learning (IDL) which is ideal for those in employment or with other commitments and provides flexible study options that fit around work or family.

Programme duration

Mode of study Duration



Independent Distance Learning (IDL)

1 year

2 years

2-7 years*

*An IDL programme - whether at PgDip or MSc level - can be completed in a minimum of 2 years. On average, our PgDip programmes studied via IDL are completed in 2-3 years, while MSc programmes are completed in 2.5-7 years. Most students intend to complete their studies via IDL within 2-3 years.

Professional recognition

This degree is accredited as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates who have already acquired an Accredited CEng (Partial) BEng (Hons) or an accredited IEng (Full) BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree. See the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM) for further information.

Industry links

The direct relationship between the programme and industry needs is reinforced in two ways: through projects with an industrial context; and through specific aspects of the taught courses, for example, presentation of case studies and seminars. There are also opportunities for visiting lecturers from relevant sectors to get involved in teaching part of the courses.

This programme is also supported by the Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from major multi-national employers AECOM, ARUP, Balfour Beatty, Halcrow, Jacobs and WSP Group. This committee convenes regularly and advises on the programme content and structure, ensuring quality, up-to-date content and relevance to industry needs.

Course content

   Detailed course guide

The curriculum of Structural and Foundation Engineering, led by Professor Laghrouche, covers the specialist technical and computational skills necessary for today’s construction industry and therefore offers excellent preparation for employment across an industry that includes consulting and contracting engineers, public authorities and local government. In addition, the programme also provides a suitable springboard for graduates seeking a career in a research lead environment.

Both MSc and Diploma students undertake the eight taught courses listed below. MSc students also complete a Masters dissertation.

Semester 1 Semester 2
  • Earthquake Engineering
  • Stability and Dynamics
  • Ground Engineering
  • FEA & Stress Analysis A
  • Safety, Risk and Reliability
  • Indeterminate Structures
  • Foundation Engineering
  • FEA & Stress Analysis B

Course descriptions

Please find below the course descriptions. For more information on courses, please contact the Programme Leader.

Earthquake Engineering

Semester 1 (mandatory)

This course aims to provide students with an understanding of the nature of seismic forces and the response of structures subjected to such loading, as well as to provide learners with an introduction to earthquake-resistant design and the seismic assessment of structures.

Topics include: Introduction to engineering seismology; waves in elastic media; introduction to Eurocode 8; simplified and multi-modal response spectrum analyses; elastic & inelastic systems; time history and frequency domain analyses; soil-structure interaction – transmitting boundaries; methods of seismic structural assessment; structural repair and strengthening techniques.

Ground Engineering

Semester 1 (mandatory)

The overall aim of this course is to provide the students with detailed knowledge and understanding in ground engineering for geotechnical engineers, extending the knowledge gained in undergraduate geotechnical courses to allow the learners to apply theoretical design and analysis to practical problems.

Subjects covered in this course include: Site investigation and soil sampling techniques; analysis of slope stability problems and failure modes; earth pressure analysis and retaining walls; application of geotextiles in geotechnical, highway & railway engineering; methods of ground improvement through compaction, grouting, consolidation and drainage.

Safety, Risk and Reliability

Semester 2 (mandatory)

This course aims to provide the students with an appreciation and understanding of the basic principles of structural reliability theory. It provides an introduction to concepts of structural safety and risk, as well as probability theory and probability distributions.

Specific topics covered in the course syllabus include: Probabilistic modelling of strength and loads; first order second moment and first order reliability methods; reliability-based code calibration; Monte-Carlo simulation and variance reduction techniques; Introduction to causes of structural deterioration (corrosion, fatigue and fracture); risk based inspection strategies using Bayesian methods.

Indeterminate Structures

Semester 2 (mandatory)

This course aims to provide students with a variety of techniques to analyse forces and displacements in linear, statically determinate and statically indeterminate skeletal structures. In this context, the course enables learners to strengthen their ability to model such structures and to understand the relationship between the mathematical models used in analysis and the behaviour of the real-world structures. It also introduces the safe and efficient use of commercial software packages for the static analysis of linear elastic beam and the plastic analysis of frames structures, as well as the modelling of structural behaviour in a laboratory environment, providing an awareness of health and safety issues in the latter. Subjects covered in the syllabus include:

Statically indeterminate structures; moment distribution; plastic analysis of frames.

Foundation Engineering

Semester 2 (mandatory)

The overall aim of this course is to provide the student with knowledge and understanding of the geotechnical design process, equipping learners with appropriate methods of analysis for settlement and bearing capacity calculations, as well as in examining appropriate national codes and Eurocodes and their implications in geotechnical design.

The syllabus includes the following topics: Introduction to foundation types (e.g. shallow footings; piled foundation types); deformation due to surface loading (e.g. stress distributions; elastic displacement; settlement theory; bearing capacity; consolidation); bearing capacity of foundations (e.g. shallow footings; active/passive pressures; general bearing capacity methods); Piles (e.g. forces and load transfer; capacity; soil types; pile group behaviour)

Research projects

The research activities of the programme involve combinations of experimental, numerical and theoretical work. The School has excellent practical facilities for static, dynamic, and impact testing and it has access to advanced computer and networking facilities that include a state-of-the-art parallel processing computer.


MSc students are also required to submit a research dissertation, the research topic normally aligns with the research interests of the staff in the School but can be tailored to suit the interests of the student or student’s employer. Distance learning and part time students are encouraged to suggest project topics based on their own work experience.


At the discretion of the Programme Leader, MSc students may choose to nominate a research project which enables them to investigate a problem they have encountered in their workplace or elsewhere. The research project can be undertaken in conjunction with a suitable industrial partner on campus or in industry if the industrial partner has the facilities to provide adequate supervision.

Programme leader

Professor Laghrouche is a Lecturer in Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics. His research interests lie in the general area of Applied Scientific Computing with a particular emphasis on elastic and acoustic waves, soil-structure interaction, non-reflecting boundary conditions, finite and infinite elements, meshless methods, non-linear modelling and parallel computing.

The additional staff members who deliver the programme have wide ranging expertise in specialist subjects which include reinforced concrete technology, dynamic and impact testing of materials, offshore engineering, structural safety, soil-structure interaction and numerical modelling.