• For Entry: September
  • Duration: 12 months
  • School: Science & Engineering
  • Study Mode: Full Time

Study geotechnical engineering and soil dynamics.

TEF Gold - Teaching Excellence Framework
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The MSc in Geotechnical Engineering is part of the Division of Civil Engineering's extensive programme of postgraduate studies and research. The course builds on the Division's renowned research expertise and industrial collaborations in current aspects of geotechnical engineering, including:

  • Offshore engineering (incl. Oil and Gas, Marine Renewables & Aquaculture)
  • Foundation design
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Ground improvement

The course is supported by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre in the form of full scholarships with industry-linked projects, recognising the importance of geotechnical engineering to key sectors of the Scottish economy.

Key reasons include:

  • Better preparation for successful careers in industry, commerce or academia
  • Development of fundamental skills in analytical and numerical modelling in geotechnical, structural and soil-structure interaction areas
  • Development of skills, knowledge and understanding in a range of topical specialist fields
  • Participation in the research activities of a world-class department
  • A wide range of research projects are available in any of the following areas: offshore engineering (foundations, anchors, pipelines and offshore processes), marine engineering for aquaculture, earthquake engineering (foundations during earthquakes, liquefaction, faulting), foundation engineering and ground improvement. Some of these projects will be linked to industry
  • Development of transferable skills in research methods, communication and management of large and small scale projects
  • Part-time students have the option of relating their research project directly to ongoing work within their employment

Professional Accreditation: ICE/IStructE/CIHT/IHE

This programme is accredited by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) and the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE). The programme is accredited as follows:

This degree is accredited as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates who have already acquired a partial CEng accredited undergraduate first degree. See www.jbm.org.uk  for further information. The programme is accredited as a Technical MSc.

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You will have the opportunity to engage with leading edge research at Dundee. We attract students of the highest calibre and our graduates are highly sought after by employers worldwide. Students studying on our masters programmes benefit from our renowned research expertise and industry collaborations.

The Geotechnical Engineering research sub-group was established in 1997 and it has grown significantly since that time. In addition to its undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research activities, the group offers services to industry across a broad range of geotechnical engineering. The group has hosted a number of major conferences and symposia in Dundee.

We have recently undertaken a major upgrade of laboratory facilities particularly in the areas of Concrete Technology and Geotechnical Engineering, thanks to an investment of £1.8M from the European Regional Development Fund and the University to create the Scottish Marine Renewables Test (SMART) Centre for Concrete and Geotechnics. This has resulted in new state-of-the-art commercial grade experimental equipment being commissioned, strengthening our capability in these research areas and enhancing our capacity for experimentally focused work.

The University of Dundee is home to a state-of-the-art geotechnical centrifuge, only one of three in Europe capable of earthquake replication. The purpose of the centrifuge is to enable small scale models of geotechnical structures such as tunnels, foundations or retaining walls to be tested under the high-stress conditions experienced by these structures at full scale. This is achieved by increasing gravity. The Dundee centrifuge is 3m radius and capable of carrying models up to 1000 kg mass and at accelerations up to 100 times earth’s gravity. Whilst “in flight”, various additional loads can be applied to the models, including earthquake shaking, large scale fault rupture, environmental wetting/drying, and translational and rotational loading can be applied using our robot.

Who should study this course?

It is designed both for people pursuing a higher degree who wish to become a specialist geotechnical engineers, soon or immediately after obtaining their first degree, and for those with considerable work experience.

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Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

The University of Dundee has been given a Gold award – the highest possible rating – in the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

Read more about the Teaching Excellence Framework

TEF Gold - Teaching Excellence Framework

How you will be taught

Modules start at the beginning of the academic session in September and are taught by lectures, laboratory sessions and tutorials.

How you will be assessed

The course is assessed by coursework and examination.

Students taking the Postgraduate Diploma carry out a shorter research project and complete an extended report.

What you will study

The programme consists of 180 credits. The credits are made up as follows:

  • Core modules 40 credits
  • Specialist modules 80 credits
  • Research project 60 credits

(One Credit represents 10 hours of notional student effort)

Core Modules

These provide skills generic to engineering and research. The two modules are:

Credits: 30

This module includes:

  • carrying out a literature search
  • analysing literature
  • writing a literature review
  • quantitative and qualitative approaches to research
  • planning a research project
  • planning a presentation
  • delivering a presentation
  • statistical analysis of data
  • hypothesis testing
  • preliminary work on your research project

Credits: 10

This module includes:

  • Background to legislation: safety statistics; causes of accidents
  • Framework of Health and Safety Legislation
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act; CDM Regulations; COSHH, Construction Regulations Managing Construction Health and Safety
  • Implementing the CDM regulations.
  • International and governmental environment policy and targets
  • What is Sustainable Construction? Minimisation of Construction Waste and Pollution Prevention Guidelines on Construction and Demolition Sites
  • Environmental Assessment Methods, e.g. ISO 14000 and BREEAM (BRE Environment Assessment Method)
  • Use of Recycled Materials in Production of Cement and Concrete
  • 'Brown' Land Remediation with cement
  • Examples of Best Practice for Recycling, Reuse and Reconstitution
  • Site visit to review the use of recycled materials in concrete production

Specialist Modules

The specialist modules provide in-depth and advanced knowledge, and build upon our recognised expertise in concrete technology. These cover the following topics:

Credits: 20

This module includes:

  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Introduction and key concepts
    • mesh design
    • shape functions
    • plane stress
    • stiffness matrices and load vectors
    • computational aspects
    • beam, plate and shell elements
    • iso-parametric elements
  • Bridge Engineering
  • Introduction to structural forms
    • computational structural modelling
    • bridge deck analysis
    • cable stayed bridges
    • bridge loadings

Credits: 20

This module includes:

  • Offshore loadings and risk analysis
  • Offshore soil (types, properties, site investigation)
  • Monotonic and cyclic soil behaviour
  • The behaviour of single shallow offshore foundations and piled foundations
  • Installations with multiple foundations
  • Anchors (types, installation methods and design)
  • The installation and performance of pipelines and cables

Credits: 20

This module includes:

  • Fundamental mechanical behaviour of soils
  • Critical State Soil Mechanics, Laboratory testing of soils
  • Stress paths and applications in engineering analysis
  • Consolidation theory and applications in engineering practice
  • Constitutive modelling and parameter selection
  • Non-linear effective stress models (e.g. Cam Clay)
  • Appropriate use of simple elasto-plastic models
  • Introduction to and application of finite element modelling in Geotechnical Engineering
  • Introduction to physical modelling
  • Basic unsaturated soil mechanics
  • Theory and modelling of contaminant transport
  • Quantative risk assessment
  • State-of-the-practice process and engineering-based remediation techniques
  • Design considerations of liners and landfill covers

Credits: 20

This module includes:

  • Origin of earthquakes and seismic ground motion
  • Effects of earthquakes on the built environment
  • Definition of performance-based design ground motion
  • Site response to earthquake loading: various approaches for design
  • Structural dynamics and modelling
  • Response spectra
  • Inelastic structural response and displacement-based design
  • Seismic structural detailing (capacity design)
  • Remedial methods
  • Soil-structure interaction
  • Seismic behaviour and design of shallow and deep foundations
  • Seismic behaviour and design of earth-retaining and buried structures
  • Stability of slopes during earthquakes
  • Liquefaction of soils: hazard assessment and remedial methods
  • non-seismic dynamic loads
  • vibration propagation and design for vibration
  • Cyclic soil behaviour and rate effects

Research Project

The research project is made up of two parts:

Students work on one project, the first part, CE50028 is completed before April. Students who satisfy the progression requirements then complete CE50007.

Credits: 60

The aim of the project is to allow students to undertake a substantial, individual programme of research, either experimental, analytical, in-depth survey, or on-site, which addresses a specific engineering problem. The topic of the project will be related to the student’s MSc specialism.

The project will enable students to put into practice skills learnt in some or all of the Core modules, and to build upon the knowledge and understanding gained in the specialist modules.

I was initially attracted to studying at the University of Dundee by the reputation of the course and positive feedback from friends that had completed the course. My time studying here was challenging yet extremely rewarding. I feel I have significantly developed my knowledge and skills in Geotechnical Engineering.

Leon Chan

There is a continuing demand for civil engineers particularly in the energy and water sectors and the skills of the civil engineer are highly portable in the multi-disciplinary engineering sectors.

We are proud of our achievements in graduate employment. The blend of science, technology and management education and training gained in a unique learning environment that is both challenging and friendly, makes our graduates attractive to employers in civil engineering and a wider range of sectors.

Graduates from Dundee have gone on to achieve high level positions in most sectors of the profession. These include consulting engineers and contractors, the offshore industry and research organisations.

“The University of Dundee has a fantastic reputation and offered a great one year MSc specialising in Geotechnical Engineering. The academics are really good, the lectures are of a very high quality and the department has a lot of links with industry. I am also constantly learning new engineering skills and processes.”

Ismael Torres Alcazar
MSc Geotechnical Engineering

You should normally have, or expect to have an honours degree at 2.2 or above, or equivalent professional or overseas qualifications, in a relevant academic discipline.

 EU and International qualifications

English Language Requirement

IELTS Overall 6.0
Listening 5.5
Reading 5.5
Writing 5.5
Speaking 5.5

 Equivalent grades from other test providers


English Language Programmes

We offer Pre-Sessional and Foundation Programme(s) throughout the year. These are designed to prepare you for university study in the UK when you have not yet met the language requirements for direct entry onto a degree programme.

 Discover our English Language Programmes

The fees you pay will depend on your fee status. Your fee status is determined by us using the information you provide on your application.

 Find out more about fee status

Fee statusFees for students starting 2019-20
Scottish and EU students £6,950 per year of study
Rest of UK students £6,950 per year of study
International students (non-EU) £20,950 per year of study
Fee statusFees for students starting 2020-21
Scottish and EU students £7,650
See our scholarships for UK/EU applicants
Rest of UK students £7,650
See our scholarships for UK/EU applicants
International students (non-EU) £21,950
See our scholarships for International applicants

Tuition fees for Overseas (non-EU) students will increase by no more than 5% per year for the length of your course.

Additional costs

You may incur additional costs in the course of your education at the University over and above tuition fees in an academic year.

Examples of additional costs:

One off costOngoing costIncidental cost
Graduation feeStudio feeField trips

*these are examples only and are not exhaustive.

Additional costs:

  • may be mandatory or optional expenses
  • may be one off, ongoing or incidental charges and certain costs may be payable annually for each year of your programme of study
  • vary depending on your programme of study
  • are payable by you and are non-refundable and non-transferable

Unfortunately, failure to pay additional costs may result in limitations on your student experience.

For additional costs specific to your course please speak to our Enquiry Team.

Funded places

SAIC Funding

A further joint initiative between the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and the Universities of Dundee and Stirling is providing further fully funded places to eligible students starting this course in 2016/17.

This covers all tuition fees associated with the MSc programme and has the same eligibility requirements as the SFC places detailed above. In addition, SAIC funded students will be required to do a geotechnical research project linked with the aquaculture industry.  A list of projects in this area for 2016/17 is given below:

  • Cost-benefit analysis of geotechnical site investigation for reducing anchoring costs of fish cages
  • Geotechnical characterisation of novel plate anchor solutions for mooring fish cages
  • Characterisation of elastic dynamic mooring components for reducing anchorage loads
  • Exploiting the beneficial effects of mooring chain – seabed interaction in existing catenary moorings
  • Numerical modelling of dynamic moorings for deeper water
  • Optimising drop anchor solutions for aquaculture

SAIC funded students will also have access to additional extra-curricular events run through the SAIC across Stirling and Dundee, including industry mixers and industrial awareness. 

Please indicate your interest in being considered for a funded place when you apply, including an indication of whether you wish to be considered for an SFC or SAIC place, or both. Students applying for SAIC or both should also indicate a preferred project from the list above. 

Due to the competitive nature of these funded places, eligible applicants are strongly advised to apply for both routes.

The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) represents the leading geotechnical specialists in the UK and, as part of its wider work, wishes to promote the MSc in Geotechnical Engineering. Accordingly, the FPS has made available five bursaries of £4,000 each to support up to five students studying the MSc in 2016/17. The bursary has the following additional advantages:

  • Successful candidates will complete their research project on an issue that is of interest to the industry.
  • The candidate would be offered a 1-2 month placement during the course with one of the members of the FPS, to work on their project and gain some additional experience of a geotechnical specialist.
  • The successful candidate would be invited to attend the FPS Awards dinner in October in London, where they could develop their network (Overnight accommodation and travel expenses would be provided for).

To qualify for a bursary the applicant should have the following:

  • Be from the UK or the EU
  • Have a 2:1 degree or better

In order to apply, the applicant should provide a written answer to the question: “Why did you decide to study geotechnics?”. The response shall be approximately three hundred words long and be sent along with a curriculum vitae, both in pdf form to fps@fps.org.uk , addressed to the FPS Secretary, with “FPS MSc Bursary” as the title, before 1 September.
The awards will be paid in full on or around the 1 December subject to satisfactory progress being made in the first semester which shall be confirmed by the relevant course tutor. The FPS will announce who has been successful by the 19 September 2016.

You apply for this course through our Direct Application System, which is free of charge. You can find out more information about making your application when you click Apply Now below

  Degree Course code
Apply nowGeotechnical Engineering MScP048789

Course Contact

Dr Ian Mackie
Science and Engineering
+44 (0)1382 384702

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