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Study information

Geotechnical Engineering (2023)

1. Programme Title:

Geotechnical Engineering

NQF Level:


2. Description of the Programme (as in the Business Approval Form)

This programme will provide you with the necessary training and skills to undertake professional employment in the civil, engineering geology, geotechnical engineering and construction industries. It also provides specialist knowledge in tunnel, surface and underground excavation design, applied hydrogeology, GIS and remote sensing and risk assessment.

Taught modules take place at CSM over two terms and individual projects are undertaken throughout the summer, often as industrial placements. The programme is suitable for geology and engineering graduates wishing to specialise in applied geotechnics. The programme is unique to the UK in that it primarily focuses on rock mechanics/rock engineering aspects of geotechnical engineering. The programme has excellent links with both the local and international extraction and construction industries. Taught modules take place at the Camborne School of Mines; projects can be either company-based or linked with industry. The course will allow you to utilise your own data for design of excavations associated with surface and underground extraction, utilization of underground space, foundations for on-shore and off-shore structures and become familiar with database management technologies.  This module will provide essential knowledge regarding site investigation practice for a number of industry sectors including civil, energy, oil and gas, construction, transportation and extractive industries. The programme will provide you with a knowledge of site investigation requirements, planning and evaluation together with an insight into geophysical investigation. The programme will also provide an introduction to remote sensing technology and the use of GIS in an engineering context.  An awareness of the utilization of remote mapping methodologies for exploration and data capture is a key skill for practicing geological and geotechnical engineers.

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

The modular programme aims to produce graduates who can practice effectively in the fields of civil, engineering geology and geotechnical engineering. The programme provides appropriate training in both pure and applied sciences and specialist engineering subjects. The programmes continue the practical traditions established at The Camborne School of Mines during the last century. Many jobs are of an increasingly technical nature and require the numeracy and computer literacy that the programme also aims to develop. Whilst many students enrolling upon the programme regard it as a vocational degree, the scientific and engineering training received facilitate careers in many fields. In addition, the programme aims to develop the transferable skills frequently sought by potential employers, such as those a Apart from formal exams, four different assessment methods such as reporting, presentation, poster presentation and experimental validation and reporting will be used. The assessment methods are created to test/focus students’ ability in report writing, presentation skills and public engagement activities.

Delivered by staff with strong research interests directly related to the topics covered, the modules involve a broad range of activities and teaching delivery methods. This includes workshops using the latest industry relevant computational tools, practical activities, group and individual exercises. Supporting the research led teaching key experts from the construction and geotechnical industry will provide topical insight to the state of the industry and clarify the context for the theory covered in the lectures.

4. Programme Structure

Your MSc Geotechnical Engineering programme is a 1 year programme of study at National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 7 (as confirmed against the FHEQ). This programme is divided into 1 Stage. Each Stage is normally equivalent to an academic year.  The programme is also divided into units of study called modules which are assigned a number of credits. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload, with 1 credit being nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work. The programme can be taken as part-time and in this case is designed for all Stage 1 modules to be completed in either 2 or 4 years.

Interim Awards

If you do not complete the programme you may be able to exit with a lower qualification.

Postgraduate Diploma: At least 120 credits of which 90 or more must be at NQF level 7.

Postgraduate Certificate: At least 60 credits of which 45 or more must be at NQF level 7.

5. Programme Modules

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules.  Constituend modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.  Details of the modules currently offered may be obtained from the College web site.

Stage 1

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
CSMM118Project and Dissertation60YesYes
CSMM130Excavation and Geomechanics 15YesNo
CSM3904CSM Professionalism Year 30YesYes
Select 6 modules from the below:
CSMM131Health and Safety in the Extractive Industry15NoNo
CSMM136Project Management15NoNo
CSMM140Surface Excavation Design 15NoNo
CSMM153Mine Planning and Design15NoNo
CSMM187Underground Excavation Design15NoNo
CSMM185Soil and Water Contamination15NoNo
CSMM186Underground Construction15NoNo
CSMM190Site Investigation Including Near Surface Geophysics15NoNo
CSMM219GIS for Mineral Explorationists and Geoenvironmental Engineers15NoNo
CSMM444Soil Mechanics with Mine Tailings Engineering15NoNo

6. Programme Outcomes Linked to Teaching, Learning & Assessment Methods

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to: Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be accommodated & facilitated by the following learning & teaching and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

A Specialised Subject Skills & Knowledge

1. awareness of occupational health and safety, environmental, industrial relations, cultural obligations and sustainability with geotechnical engineering.

2. aware of professional responsibility towards the broader community, and of its expectations related to the industry and chosen discipline.

3. appraise and assess the use rock engineering design for tunnelling excavations in the mining, civil, geotechnical, environmental and related industries.

4. gain an in-depth knowledge of the behaviour and uses of rocks and soils.

5. appraise and assess the methods, roles and limitations of laboratory and field measurements for engineering design.

6. evaluate and assess the achievable accuracy possible in geomechanics design having regard to the major uncertainties in the input parameters.

7. visualise and critically analyse discontinuity data using stereograms.

8. perform rock mass mapping and critically apply empirical design methodology.

9. evaluate and understand the influence of factors controlling the engineering behaviour of rock masses.

10. evaluate the role and limitations of analytical and computer methods in underground excavation design.

11. appraise and assess the data requirements for the design of underground excavations, including considerations of data variability and risk assessment.

12. critically analyse and determine appropriate design of excavations in varying rock material.

13. prepare consulting style reports on both underground and surface design projects.

Learning & Teaching Activities

Advice is given regarding the choice of appropriate modules taking into consideration your first degree discipline and your chosen area of specialisation.  Material is introduced by lectures and directed reading/research and you are given very clear guidance in how to manage your learning. Understanding is developed and consolidated in tutorials and by laboratory and private study exercises, carried out individually and in groups, both self-assessed and tutor marked to provide feedback. Project work is used extensively to integrate material and make knowledge functional.

Fundamental knowledge of excavation techniques, health and safety, project management and rock properties are provided in term one. This is then used to provide specialist design skills in the second term modules, such as Surface and Underground Excavation Design, Site Investigation, GIS, Geomechanics Computer Modelling for Excavation Design and use of advanced modelling software. Where appropriate visits to site operations are provided for industrial context

Assessment Methods

ILO’s 1-13 are assessed by direct assessment, through a range of formal written examinations, laboratory reports, assignment reports/essays based on directed reading, computer analysis and simulation and research.

The Individual Research Project is assessed on the basis of assessment of the submitted dissertation by the supervisor and second examiner against clearly set out assessment criteria

B Academic Discipline Core Skills & Knowledge

14. demonstrate a systematic and creative approach to problem solving.

15. apply appropriate mathematical methods, scientific principles and computer based methods to the modelling, analysis and solution of practical engineering problems.

16. create a complete design, product or service to meet a customer need, starting from negotiation of specifications, showing creativity and justifying all decisions.

17. take a holistic approach to design and problem solving.

18. assess and manage risks (e.g.: commercial, safety, environmental etc.).

19. take personal responsibility for acting in a professional and ethical manner.

Practical skills – able to:

20. select and use appropriate ICT based tools for analysis, design and communication of designs.

21. select and use laboratory and field instrumentation appropriately and correctly.

Learning & Teaching Activities

ILO’s 14 and 15 are integrated into most modules and developed steadily throughout the 2 taught terms. 16 and 17 are introduced in several modules during the 1st term and are developed more systematically in the second term design modules. 18 and 19 are developed by use in modules throughout the programme, but also in the main research project over the summer period.

20 to 21 are introduced in several modules. These practical skills are then developed in laboratory, field and computer-based design work carried out as an integral part of many modules. These skills are also carried forward into the individual research project.

Assessment Methods

Analytical skills 14 to 19 are assessed within many modules through a range of formal written examinations and marked coursework. These skills are also enhanced via the Individual Project, assessed on the basis of practical work/results and final report by a supervisor and second examiner against clearly set out assessment criteria.

The practical skills 20 and 21are assessed in part through laboratory reports and use of mapping equipment, but mainly through project assignment work in the second semester and the final individual research project.

C Personal / Transferable / Employment Skills & Knowledge

22. communicate effectively and persuasively using the full range of currently available methods.

23. manage resources and time.

24. work in a team, which may be multi-disciplinary.

25. learn independently, identifying own personal development needs and goals, reflecting on own performance and managing own personal development.

26. obtain and process information from a wide range of sources, which may be conflicting, analyse it critically and apply this information in engineering applications.

27. sort, manipulate and present data in a way that facilitates effective analysis and decision making.

Learning & Teaching Activities

Skills 22 and 23 are used throughout the programme. 22 and 23 are developed through regular written presentations of work, particularly in the main projects. 25 and 26 are initially developed in term one through feedback from coursework assignments. 24 is also developed through laboratory and project group work in many modules, including the pilot plant run. 25 to 27 are similarly developed by a wide range of project and assignment work, culminating in the Individual Research Project.

Assessment Methods

Assessment of key skills is mostly through items of coursework: written and oral presentations, and through project work. 22 is assessed implicitly in the continuous part of many module assessments. 23 is implicit in much of all students' study but is explicitly tested in the main research project. 24 is implicitly assessed in group work as part of several modules. 25 to 27 are implicitly assessed in many modules including the Individual Research Project.

7. Programme Regulations


The programme consists of 180 credits with 90/60 credits taken at each stage where the programme is offered part time. In total, participants must take at least 150 credits at NQF level 7. The pass mark for award of credit in PG modules (NQF level 7) is 50%.


This programme is accredited by a PSRB under licence from the Engineering Council. Therefore, the latest Engineering Council regulations on condonement apply to this programme. Please find further details in the TQA Manual here:


The marking of modules and the classification of awards broadly corresponds to the following marks:

Postgraduate Degrees

Distinction   70%+

Merit            60-69%

Pass            50-59%

Full details of PGT programmes assessment regulations can be found in the Teaching Quality Assurance Manual (TQA) on the University of Exeter website.  Generic marking criteria are also published here.

Please see the Teaching and Quality Assurance Manual for further guidance.

During their studies students will also undertake a special “zero credit” module, CSMM904 Professionalism. Successful completion of this will lead to the additional award of MCSM (Masters of the Camborne School of Mines).

8. College Support for Students and Students' Learning

Personal and Academic tutoring: It is University policy that all Colleges should have in place a system of academic and personal tutors. The role of academic tutors is to support you on individual modules; the role of personal tutors is to provide you with advice and support for the duration of the programme and extends to providing you with details of how to obtain support and guidance on personal difficulties such as accommodation, financial difficulties and sickness. You can also make an appointment to see individual teaching staff.

Regular feedback on academic progress will be given on-line through the use of e-tivities, formative assessment personal wiki's and where appropriate skype, email and telephone conversations.  This will be supported at residentials by individual, group and presentation feedback sessions.

Students have access to good computing and library facilities at the Penryn Campus. Computer-based exercises and web-based learning materials are a feature of the programme, which can be accessed via the internet. IT Services provide a range of central services, including open and training clusters of PCs (available on a 24/7 basis); and available during residentials held at CSM.  Network access is available from all rooms in the hall of residence on site. The Learning Resource Centre contains a library of 70,000 volumes and some specialist collections. In addition, students have full access to the central University of Exeter library, including the electronic library resources.

Online Module study resources provide materials for modules that you are registered for, in addition to some useful subject and IT resources. Generic study support resources, library and research skills, past exam papers, and the 'Academic Honesty and Plagiarism' module are also available through the student portal (

10. Admission Criteria

All applications are considered individually on merit. The University is committed to an equal opportunities policy with respect to gender, age, race, sexual orientation and/or disability when dealing with applications. It is also committed to widening access to higher education to students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.

Entry requirements for this programme can be found on the Postgraduate Study Page.

Candidates must satisfy the general admissions requirements of the University of Exeter.

11. Regulation of Assessment and Academic Standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed College assessment and marking strategy, underpinned by institution-wide assessment procedures.

The security of assessment and academic standards is further supported through the appointment of External Examiners for each programme. External Examiners have access to draft papers, course work and examination scripts. They are required to attend the Board of Examiners and to provide an annual report. Annual External Examiner reports are monitored at both College and University level. Their responsibilities are described in the University's code of practice.  See the University's TQA Manual for details.

12. Indicators of Quality and Standards

Certain programmes are subject to accreditation and/or review by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs).
The MSc Geotechnical Engineering is accredited by the Institution of Materials Minerals and Mining (IOM3) as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates who have already acquired an Accredited CEng (Partial) BEng (Hons) undergraduate first degree. See for further information.
Accreditation is a mark of assurance that the degree meets the standards set by the Engineering Council in the UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC).
Accreditation is awarded for a maximum of 5 years under each assessment exercise. The dates applicable to the current accreditation of this degree programme can be viewed on the Engineering Council list of accredited degrees:
14 Awarding Institution University of Exeter
15 Lead College / Teaching Institution College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
16 Partner College / Institution
17 Programme accredited/validated by
18 Final Award(s) MSc
19 UCAS Code (UG programmes) GEOTECH
20 NQF Level of Final Awards(s): 7
21 Credit (CATS and ECTS) 180 credits (90 ECTS)
22 QAA Subject Benchmarking Group (UG and PGT programmes) Geology
23 Origin Date February 8th 2023 Last Date of Revision: February 8th 2023