Chemical Engineering

Director of Studies: Dr Laura Torrente

Length of course: 4 years including the first year of either Engineering or Natural Sciences (Physical)

Number of students admitted each year: 1-2

The University Course

Chemical Engineering is taught in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology. The department at Cambridge has an international reputation for excellence in its teaching and its research both in traditional chemical engineering and also in biotechnology.

Though students do not study Chemical Engineering in the first year, applicants should indicate their desire to read Chemical Engineering by using the appropriate UCAS code. Students join the Department at the start of their second year in residence after having studied either Engineering or Natural Sciences (Physical) in their fist year. It is still possible to transfer to Chemical Engineering even if it was not expressed at admission, though in the event of the course being over-subscribed preference will be given to those who do.

The selection of entry route is a matter of personal choice, each has its advantages and disadvantages and reference should be made to the sections on those subjects. Note that whilst A level physics is desirable for all routes it is essential for those applying via Engineering.

First year: In this year chemical engineers study Part IA Engineering or Part IA Natural Sciences (Physical).

Second year: In this year, students study Part I Chemical Engineering. It introduces the discipline and covers many of the fundamental principles of chemical engineering.

Third year: In this year, students study Part IIA Chemical Engineering. It completes the study of "core" chemical engineering and is a preparation for immediate professional practice. Students who pass this course are entitled to leave the University with the BA degree. (Cambridge offers Bachelor of Arts degrees, even to scientists and engineers, for historical reasons).

Fourth year: Almost all students stay on to study the course in the fourth year at University, termed Part IIB Chemical Engineering. This is an advanced course in chemical engineering that is intended as preparation for a long-term career in the discipline. The course provides the opportunity to study the subject in greater depth, to consider recent advances, and to undertake some original research work. Students who pass this course are entitled to both the BA and MEng degrees. The MEng degree satisfies the academic requirements for full membership of the IChemE leading to Chartered Engineer status.

The diagram below shows the course structure while the following pages give more detailed information on the actual topics that are studied.

Chemical Engineering at Christ's

Every student at Cambridge must be a member of one or other of the 31 Colleges for undergraduates of the University. The course content, lectures and examinations are the responsibility of the University Faculty, and are the same for every student reading Chemical Engineering at Cambridge regardless of their College. In the first years, lectures are given in whichever Department is chosen as the entry route. All are in the City centre close to Christ's College. In the subsequent years lectures and laboratories take place in the new Chemical Engineering building on the university West Site.

Colleges are responsible for the selection and admission of undergraduates, the provision of social facilities such as accommodation, and ongoing personal and academic support. Every College has a Director of Studies in Chemical Engineering, part of whose job is to advise students in their choice of options and to arrange supervisions for them. Supervisions are tutorial teaching sessions in small groups: students will typically have two supervisions per week in groups of two. Any difficulties with the lectures or their associated examples and problem sheets are tackled during these sessions. Supervisions are one of the major advantages of a Cambridge education, providing individually tailored help and tuition. They offer a more directed and relevant approach to a student's own work than is possible at most other universities, where similar material can only be covered in example classes involving much larger numbers of students. Each College makes its own arrangements for supervisions. As a small subject Chemical Engineering Christ's does not have an internal Director of Studies, i.e. one who is a Fellow of the College but current uses the services of Dr Laura Torrente, a Lecturer in the University of Cambridge. 

Students with interests beyond chemical engineering may also attend almost any other lecture in the University; many members of the University take advantage of this in order to learn or improve a foreign language. In some cases it may be possible to use this study to gain a formal qualification (Certificate or Diploma) in a foreign language in addition to a student's degree in Chemical Engineering though there is also an option to study a foreign language in the final year of the Chemical Engineering Tripos. In addition there are many academic societies in Cambridge which arrange talks that may be of interest to students of Chemical Engineering including the Departmental Cambridge University Chemical Engineering Society.

Chemical Engineering is one of the most marketable of degree subjects, and graduates from the Cambridge Chemical Engineering Tripos are highly sought by employers.

College Facilities

Christ's is distinctive amongst the Cambridge Colleges. It offers strong tutorial support to its students as they pursue their academic work, and is able to offer accommodation for three years to all of its undergraduates. The College also provides a modern library, a theatre, sporting facilities, playing fields, social activities and clubs and societies open to all.

How to Apply

Information about the application process including the dates and deadlines are on our how to apply page. In your UCAS application, you will need to apply for either Chemical Engineering via Engineering (UCAS code H810) or Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences (UCAS code H813).

In addition to nominating Cambridge as one of your selected universities on the UCAS application form, it is also desirable to choose a College of preference (the alternative is to submit an Open Application and allow a College preference to be chosen for you by computer). This can appear to add to the complexity of applying to Cambridge, but in reality the option of stating your particular College preference increases the control which you have over your own application. Many criteria can be used for choosing a College of preference, including such factors as location, architecture and accommodation, and academic, musical or sporting reputation. If you are able to visit Cambridge (preferably on a College Open Day) you may get a better idea of the location, atmosphere and facilities of various Colleges.

Subject requirements

For Chemical Engineering via Engineering, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry are required subjects at A-level, IB Higher Level or equivalent. If you are taking A-levels and have the opportunity, it would be excellent to take Further Mathematics at AS or A2 in addition to Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. If you receive an offer for Chemical Engineering via Engineering, we will also ask you to take STEP Mathematics (normally Paper I).

For Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences (Physical), we require Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics at A-level, IB Higher Level or equivalent, though for students taking A-levels, Further Mathematics can be offered in place of Physics. The Further Mathematics mechanics modules offer better preparation for the course than most Physics modules.

If you are taking Further Mathematics and are given a choice of modules, we recommend that you choose mechanics modules and pure maths modules rather than statistics and decision theory modules. If you would like to study Further Mathematics but your school doesn't offer it, you may be able to get support through the Advanced Mathematics Support Programme.

Pre-interview Admissions Assessment

All applicants for Chemical Engineering at Cambridge must sit a pre-interview admissions assessment. Those applying for Chemical Engineering via Engineering (H810) must sit the Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA). Those applying for Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences Physical (H813) must sit the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA).

The assessment will take place in your school, college or local testing centre on 30 October 2019. The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. The Engineering or Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:

  • All Chemical Engineering applicants applying in 2019 must be registered to take either the Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA) or the Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA) by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2019. See how to be registered.
    Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
  • All Chemical Engineering applicants applying in 2019 sit the relevant assessment on 30 October 2019.

Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year.


Candidates invited for interview in Cambridge are usually interviewed in very late November or early December. Normally applicants will have two interviews (about 25 minutes each) in their entry subject i.e. Engineering or Natural Sciences (Physical).

During the interviews we may ask questions on topics with which you are not already familiar: the aim here is to assess your innate engineering and/or scientific ability when working through unprepared questions and your ability to absorb quickly new ideas. This approach minimises the effects of a candidate's background and teaching and creates a level playing field. We will not try to “catch you out” but rather will help you work through unseen problems. We normally ask candidates to think out loud as they tackle interview problems as a means of helping us to understand their individual approach to the subjects.

For more information about Cambridge interviews, we recommend that you watch the two films on the Cambridge admissions interviews page

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section.


Our aim is to admit the best students regardless of their background. Christ's College does not have fixed quotas of places for different subjects and the exact numbers admitted in any one year will depend upon the strengths of the fields of applicants in various subjects. However, Christ's aim is to admit two or three students each year in Chemical Engineering.

Conditional offers for Chemical Engineering are likely to be minimum A*A*A at A-level, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in relevant Higher Level subjects, or equivalent in other qualifications, although the precise terms of each offer are assessed individually. Offers for Chemical Engineering via Engineering also include STEP, typically grade 1 in STEP Mathematics I.

Please note that we require A-level students to complete and pass the practical assessment in science subjects.

If you are an international applicant taking another qualification, do look at the international students section for further information.  If you will have already finished school when you apply, we recommend that you read the page for post-qualification applications



For Chemical Engineering via Engineering

For Chemical Engineering via Natural Sciences

Further Information

If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the Chemical Engineering course in person. If you are not able to come to an Open Day, we will be happy to answer any queries you may have that are not covered by the normal literature. Please address any such enquiries by e-mail to

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