Module code: ENGM269

Module Overview

This module is designed to provide insights into aspects of advanced soil mechanics, including soil constitutive models, soil parameter selections and determinations, which are necessary to carry out design of geotechnical structures and foundations. It builds upon the fundamental knowledge from module ENG2104 Soil Mechanics, thus a revision to the essential basics is given at the start of the module.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

CUI Liang (Sust & CEE)

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: 92

Seminar Hours: 16

Laboratory Hours: 6

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 16

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The module contents are designed to equip students with advanced theories and principles in soil mechanics to enable students (future geotechnical engineers) to solve complex geotechnical problems. Students will be introduced the following contents and get prepared for complex geotechnical design using both hand calculations and commercial software. 

Indicative content includes: 

  • Revision of fundamental soil mechanics 

Index properties of soil, soil classification, characterisation and testing, permeability, soil strength compressibility and consolidation, fundamental soil testing 

  • Strength of soil 

Effective stress concept, undrained strength of clay, drained strength of sand and clay (peak, residual, critical state) 

  • Soil stiffness 

Undrained/drained modulus, Young’s modulus, shear modulus, bulk modulus, strain level, stiffness variation against depth, anisotropy. 

  • Constitutive models for soil 

Basic FE in geotechnical engineering, stress paths, compression and swelling, normal compression line (NCL), critical state line (CSL), Mohr-Coulomb model, Cam-clay model, critical state framework 

  • Advanced soil testing 

Cyclic triaxial tests, dynamic simple shear, bender element test, resonant column test. 

  • Site Investigation 

Exploration and sampling, in-situ testing, interpretation of test data

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework COURSEWORK 1 20
Coursework COURSEWORK 2 15
Examination Online 4-hour EXAMINATION 65

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate: 

  • The understanding the roles of soil parameters in geotechnical design 

  • The ability to carry out hand calculations to determine soil parameters or stress/strains using different soil constitutive models 

  • The ability to select appropriate soil parameters and appropriate soil constitutive models to carry out Finite Element modelling 

  • The understanding of working mechanism of advanced soil testing apparatus and the ability to interpret advance soil testing data 

  • The understanding of site investigation and site exploration methods 


  Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of: 

  • Coursework 1 on FE modelling of a geotechnical scenario to assess the ability to self-learn the commercial FEM software, Plaxis, interpret site investigation results, make appropriate choices of soil stiffness and strength parameters and suitable soil constitutive model, build up FEM model, and analyse the geotechnical problem (LO’s 2, 3, 5, 6) (20%) 

  • Coursework 2 on hand calculations to assess students’ ability of applying the theories to solve analytical problems and processing laboratory test data to assess students’ understanding of advanced soil testing (LO’s 1, 4, 6, 7) (15%) 

  • Final exam to assess the understanding of soil constitutive models, soil stiffness and strength parameters, advanced soil testing, and site investigation methods, and the ability to apply the knowledge to solve problems (LO’s 1, 2, 4, 5, 7) (65%) 


  Formative assessment and feedback 

Tutorial questions are designed to assess the learning of students and solutions are provided for feedback. Feedback on coursework is provided on returning work.¿ 

Module aims

  • Provide students with various soil constitutive models and choices for design in various conditions
  • Give students training on applying the theories and principles to solve problems
  • Introduce students to soil stiffness and its nonlinearity and anisotropy, as well as their implications for geotechnical design
  • Give students training on analyses of geotechnical problems using commercial software
  • Provide hands-on training on the advanced soil testing methods for determining design parameters
  • Introduce students to site investigation methods

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Determine soil parameters and/or soil stresses/strains using appropriate soil constitutive models KCP
002 Make appropriate choices of strength parameters and soil stiffness to be used in geotechnical design for various ground conditions and loading conditions KCPT
003 Select appropriate soil constitutive models and build up Finite Element models to analyse geotechnical problems KCPT
004 Make appropriate choices of soil testing and interpret test data to obtain parameters for a range of geotechnical design scenarios. KCPT
005 Familiar with site investigation stages and site explore methods; be able to plan site investigation to retrieve required information KCPT
006 Develop Independent learning, information retrieval and decision-making skills through modelling and analysing geotechnical problems using Finite Element modelling KT
007 Synthesis and graphical presentation of data from the two advanced soil tests using digital tools KT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to provide students advanced theories and principles in soil mechanics and approaches to analyse complex geotechnical problems. This module is based on the basic soil mechanics principles introduced in ENG2104 Soil Mechanics.  

The module is delivered weekly first via captured contents (16 hours) available to students before timetabled sessions. It is followed by interactive seminars (2 hours/week for 8 weeks) to discuss the difficult concepts and questions raised by students. To introduce students to advanced soil testing techniques, two laboratory sessions are arranged, including the cyclic triaxial test (3 hours) and the resonant column test (3 hours).  

Apart from the face-to-face seminars and laboratory classes, students are expected to carry out independent learning on a weekly basis to complete tutorial questions, coursework and quizzes. They will exercise the skills of retrieving information and undertaking research to address open-ended questions in the coursework, making decisions with limited and imperfect information for Finite Element modelling. Students will navigate and utilise digital resources on SurreyLearn, such as recorded contents, online quizzes, to aid their learning. They will exercise digital communication skills by using the discussion forum on SurreyLearn, Teams/zooms, emails to discuss the learning issues with lecturers and peers. They will self-learn a commercial FEM software, Plaxis, to perform an analysis of a given geotechnical problem. 

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: ENGM269

Other information

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience, in line with the Surrey Curriculum Framework. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:   

  • Digital capabilities: Students will develop capacity to use digital tools to process laboratory test data and graphically present data for soil parameter determination. Students will develop the numerical modelling skills by self-learning a commercial software and using it to analyse a complex geotechnical problem. Students will exercise digital communication skills by using the discussion forum, Teams, Zooms, and emails to participate in discussion. Students will develop capacity in utilising digital resources on SurreyLearn to support learning. 

  • Employability: This module enhances students’ employability through equipping them with advanced knowledge, problem-solving skills and design skills in geotechnical engineering. It will also provide training to students in using Plaxis, which is a widely used commercial software in industry. Students also develop teamwork skills while working as groups in laboratory. 

  • Resourcefulness and Resilience: This module enhances students’ capacities in information retrieval, decision-making with incomplete information, and design and development of complex and practical solutions to complex geotechnical problems

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Bridge 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
Advanced Geotechnical Engineering MSc 1 Compulsory 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
Structural Engineering MSc 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 2022/3 academic year.