ENS Education % Training Platform

Education & Training

United Kingdom

A Review of the UK’s Nuclear Research and Development Capability, A report prepared by the Dalton Nuclear Institute, National Nuclear Laboratory and Battelle, commissioned by the Technology Strategy Board in partnership with Materials UK and Regional Development Agencies,

General information

Background and History

The UK currently has 10 operational nuclear power plants with another 9 undergoing decommissioning.

Magnox NPPs
Oldbury (1 unit) It was recently announced that this reactor will stop operation in February 2012
Yr Wylfa (2 units)

Sizewell B (1 unit)

Dungeness B (2 units)

Hartlepool (2 units)
Heysham 1 (2 units)
Heysham 2 (2 units)
Hinkley Point B (2 units)
Hunterston B (2 units)
Torness (2 units)

Decommissioning Magnox NPPs
Bradwell (2 units)
Berkeley (2 units)
Calder Hall (4 units)
Chapelcross (4 units)
Dungeness A (2 units)
Hinkley Point A (2 units)
Hunterston A (2 units)
Oldbury (1 unit)
Sizewell A (2 units)
Trawsfynydd (2 units)

The operation and decommissioning of the Magnox Reactors is the responsibility of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority whilst the day-to-day operation is currently run by the Parent Body Organisations Magnox Electric. Oldbury was scheduled to cease generation at the end of 2008 and Yr Wylfa by the end of 2010 but both continue to operate. The AGRs and the PWR at Sizewell B are operated by EDF Energy. The eighteen operational reactors generate approximately read more


Overview of UK Educational system

The top tier of 20 research-intensive “Russell Group” universities account for 65% of UK university research income, 56% of all doctorates and over 30% of all students studying in the UK. These universities are: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Leeds, Liverpool, London School of Economics, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Queen’s University Belfast, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, University College London, and Warwick.

The second tier “1994 Group” are Bath, Birkbeck University of London (UL), Durham, East Anglia, Essex, Exeter, Goldsmiths UL, Royal Holloway UL, Lancaster, Leicester, Loughborough, Queen Mary UL, Reading, St Andrews, School of Oriental & African Studies, Surrey, Sussex, and York.

Most of the first and second tier group universities offer both 3-year Bachelor (BSc, BEng) and 4-year “Integrated Masters” (MPhys, MEng, MSci) undergraduate degrees. Most universities have a higher progression threshold for the Integrated Masters and this is the preferred qualification for entry to a PhD (or “DPhil”) programme.

In most UK universities the academic year is split into two 12-week teaching semesters. The student loading is 120 UK credits or approximately 60 ECTS per year (1200 hours of application). Current ECTS guidelines indicate that one credit stands for about 25-30 working hours. Current practice in the UK is to equate one ECTS credit with two UK credits. One UK credit is generally recognised to represent 10 notional learning hours, so that one ECTS credit in UK terms would equate to approximately 20 notional hours of learning.

The Bachelor and Intergrated Masters degrees are classified (1st Class, 2.i, 2.ii, 3rd, Pass, Fail). Entry onto a PhD programme requires a 2.i or above (Integrated Masters degree preferred) or a postgraduate Master degree (MSc). Entry into a postgraduate Masters Degree (MSc) requires a 2.ii or above. The UK postgraduate MSc degree tends to serve a different purpose to the European Masters. It is a one-year full-time programme of 48 weeks duration (rather than two semesters) and typically has 120 UK credits of taught courses and a 60 UK credit project and dissertation. Using the conversion above 180 UK credits for the MSc equates to 90 ECTS credits, but this is probably an over-estimate as there is a recommended limit of 75 ECTS that can be earned in a single year. The MSc is typically used by students wishing to move across into a different field. Thus students from general engineering or physical science undergraduate degrees can acquire the necessary nuclear knowledge from an MSc programme to allow them a favoured route into the nuclear industry or to start PhD research in a nuclear-related area. The UK MSc also offers an alternative route to a PhD programme to students who did not achieve a 2.i in their first degree. The degree is often but not always classified (Distinction, Merit, Pass, Fail). MSc degrees may be taken part-time over three to five years. There is little enthusiasm in the UK to make the MSc Bologna-compatible.

At Masters level there are related awards of Postgraduate Certificate (60 UK credits of taught courses) and the Postgraduate Diploma (120 UK credits of taught courses).

At Doctoral level the standard PhD (or DPhil at Oxford and a few other universities) has traditionally been a 3-year programme. Research Councils who provide studentships for these degrees are now beginning to recognise the benefit of additional taught courses in the programmes and the degree is being extended to 3.5 or 4 years.

Two new types of PhD are now being funded by the research councils. Students at Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC-funded centres carry out a PhD-level research project together with taught coursework in a supportive and exciting environment. The two types of centres are:

  • Doctoral Training Centres

  • Industrial Doctorate Centers

Doctoral Training Centres
Students at these centres undertake:

  • A 4-year PhD course or equivalent where the first year allows time for exploration before deciding on a project.

  • A challenging and original research project at PhD level.

  • A formal, assessable programme of taught coursework (up to 25% of the time and broadly equivalent to a Masters in level and content) to develop technical interdisciplinary knowledge and broaden skills.

  • Other activities to develop breadth of knowledge plus transferable skills training including public engagement.

Engineering Doctorate and Industrial Doctorate Centres
The Industrial Doctorate Centres provide an alternative to the traditional PhD for students who want a career in industry. A four-year programme combines PhD-level research projects with taught courses, and students spend about 75% of their time working directly with a company. The scheme has been expanded to include Industrial Doctorate centres across the whole of EPSRC’s remit. Students on four-year Industrial Doctorate programmes undertake technical and management training, assessed as part of the degree, to help their professional development. They carry out PhD- level research projects, jointly supervised by the university and a company, which aim to help the performance of the company. Like the EngD, around 75% of students’ time is spent working within the company.

Further information in UK universities nuclear education and research is available from the website

The UK skills pyramid

The UK skills pyramid