Science - Up, up and away

20th April 2012 at 01:00
The sky's no longer the limit with a space engineering course

Richard Branson is promising to shoot celebrities into space - and anyone else who can afford the price of a ticket. Across the world, little boys still want to be astronauts. But space engineering has always appeared rather less glamorous and has struggled to shake off its stale, male image.

That's about to change. Fifteen students from across the UK have been selected to join the country's first space engineering course, to be delivered by the National Space Centre and Loughborough College in Leicestershire.

Launching in September, with subjects including A levels in physics and maths and a BTEC level 3 diploma in engineering, the pioneering two-year programme aims to blend academic and vocational learning for 16 to 18-year-olds. It is backed by the UK Space Agency and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick and Leicester universities have also welcomed the chance to speak to the students, and other post-16 institutions across the UK are looking to replicate the course model in related disciplines, such as marine and aerospace engineering.

"The space engineering course offers a suite of activities seen in no other post-16 course in the country," says Jim Mutton, principal of Loughborough College. "The demanding A levels in combination with a highly respected BTEC qualification, all taught in a space context, will get students to preserve a high-end academic route while complementing and stretching their skills with a hands-on element."

Anu Ojha, director of education and space communications at the National Space Centre, has presented sessions at Nasa conferences and European Space Agency teacher conferences, and has been selected as a "space ambassador" for the UK Space Education Office. "We have had to change the mindsets of students, parents, academic institutions and the industry. Now everyone is very excited," he says. "Students will have access to personnel and equipment which would be the envy of most sixth forms."

For details of the course, email or telephone 0845 166 2950. The Loughborough College Space Engineering blog is at


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