Module code: ENGM053

Module Overview

The Finite Element Method (FEM) is the most commonly used tool in practice for structural design and analysis of bridges, buildings and other types of structures. In order to carry out a successful FE analysis, a basic knowledge of the theory behind the FEM is required as well as an understanding of the applications to different types of structural elements & analyses. This module covers both of these two aspects which are essential for learning how to perform a FE analysis.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

SAGASETA Juan (Civl Env Eng)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 98

Seminar Hours: 1

Tutorial Hours: 10

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 30

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

Knowledge of structural mechanics to FHEQ Level 6

Module content

  • Stiffness method, numerical tools used in the finite element method (interpolation, shape functions, numerical integration, co-ordinate transformation), virtual work, FEM matrix framework

  • Finite element families (iso-parametric elements, non-conforming elements) & their tests: truss & frame elements, plates & shell elements, plane stress elements, solid 3D brick elements

  • General considerations in FE modelling: loading, boundary conditions, symmetry, model connections, linear elastic analysis, introduction to non-linear static analysis (geometry and material non-linearities), introduction to dynamic FE analysis and extreme loading.


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Examination Online ONLINE 24 HOUR (OPEN BOOK) EXAM 75

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of theory and fundamentals behind the finite element method and its applications in design and analysis of Structures (LO 1) through a 2 hour unseen examination. LO’s 2 and 3 are assessed through the design/analysis coursework.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Unseen written examination (75%), 2 hours – [LO assessed 1]

  • Coursework assignment 1 (10%) – [LOs assessed 2,3,4,5]; estimated working hours 15; 15 page report on using Stiffness method and FE of trusses.

  • Coursework assignment 2 (15%) – [LOs assessed 2 ,3,4,5]; estimated working hours 22, 15 page report on plane stress or shell element modelling and FE.

Formative assessment and feedback are through a range of self-assessment exercises (named “home exercises”). The final solution to these exercises is given so that students can check their answers. Worked examples are also given. Feedback is also given on SurreyLearn in forum discussions and through comments on coursework submissions.

Module aims

  • provide an appreciation of the theory behind the finite element method and the applications of this method in the design and analysis of Structures.
  • provide the ability to use commercial finite element program to model structures using different types of elements.
  • provide an overview of the different types of finite element analysis and levels of complexity generally used in practice to obtain a specific desired level of accuracy and achieve economic and safe structural designs.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Demonstrate the theory behind the finite element method (FEM) and its applications in design/analysis of structural engineering solutions. KC SM5M, EA3M
002 Model simple and complex structures using different types of finite elements. CP SM5M, EA1M, P2M
003 Carry out a systematic and rigorous verification of FE calculations to critically evaluate their validity. KPT EA1M, P9M
004 Synthesis of data including input and output from FE calculations. T EA1M, P4
005 Technical report writing of FE results and verification in a professional manner T P4, P9M

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

30 hrs lectures, 10 hrs tutorials/question classes/self- assessment questions, 2 hrs video tutorials, 37 hrs assignment work, 71 hrs independent learning. Total student learning time 150 hrs.


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ENGM053

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Advanced Geotechnical Engineering MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Bridge Engineering MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Structural Engineering MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Infrastructure Engineering and Management MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Civil Engineering MEng 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2021/2 academic year.