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.

There is an expectations that students on this module have prior knowledge of structural engineering to the level of final year BEng.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

SAGASETA Juan (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: 94

Tutorial Hours: 22

Practical/Performance Hours: 2

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


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 EXAM (2 HOUR) 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 through an 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%) – [LO assessed 1]

  • Coursework assignment 1 (25%) – [LOs assessed 2,3,4,5]; estimated working hours 37; 15 page report on using Stiffness method, FE of trusses, plane stress or shell modelling.

Formative assessment and feedback are through a range of self-assessment exercises (named “home exercises”). Students can verify their answers against the final solution to these exercises which are provided. 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
002 Model simple and complex structures using different types of finite elements. CP
003 Carry out a systematic and rigorous verification of FE calculations to critically evaluate their validity. KPT
004 Synthesis of data including input and output from FE calculations. T
005 Technical report writing of FE results and verification in a professional manner. T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

This module provides learning and teaching activities arranged on a weekly basis. These activities include video captured content for the main theoretical content which is supported by guided learning material and live tutorial sessions to go through home exercises and questions raised during the week.

The learning content of this module covers theoretical and practical considerations of the Finite Element Method FEM which goes beyond direct application of FE software at FHEQ Level 6. Students are challenged with a broad set of exercises to consolidate fundamental aspects of FEM. The content will enable students to tackle complex structural analysis for other modules in Level 7 as well as in civil engineering practice.

The learning and teaching strategies include:

30 hrs lectures/captured content, 10 hrs tutorials/question classes/self-assessment questions, 2 hrs video tutorials, and 108 hrs of 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

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. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: The structural modelling and verification techniques in this module provide the student with professional skills leading to more reliable structural designs and assessments. The module covers systematic approaches to interpret data from Finite Element software and present it in a professional manner so that it can be reviewed by others and support decision making in civil engineering projects.

Resourcefulness & resilience: The module covers the use of different modelling approaches to solve complex structural systems for which students need to develop agile decision making and undertake real-world problem-based tasks.

Digital capabilities: This module includes the use of Finite Element software and interpretation of input and output data from such tools. In addition, the module highlights the relevance of verification of data from these numerical models as well as describes a systematic approach to address this based on a combination of theoretical and pragmatic recommendations.

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 2024/5 academic year.