Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is the academic department at Imperial College London dedicated to civil engineering. It is located at the South Kensington Campus in London, along Imperial College Road. The department is currently a part of the college's Faculty of Engineering, which was formed in 2001 when Imperial College restructured. The department has consistently ranked within the top five on the QS World University Rankings in recent years.[3]

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London
Skempton Building Side On, Imperial College Road.png
The Skempton Building is home to the department
Established1913 (1913)
Head of Department
Professor Nick Buenfeld[1]
FacultyImperial College Faculty of Engineering
LocationImperial College Road, London, United Kingdom
51°29′54″N 0°10′33″W / 51.498389°N 0.175806°W / 51.498389; -0.175806Coordinates: 51°29′54″N 0°10′33″W / 51.498389°N 0.175806°W / 51.498389; -0.175806
CampusSouth Kensington
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London is located in Albertopolis, South Kensington
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London
Location in Albertopolis, South Kensington

The department is housed in the Skempton Building,[4] named after the English civil engineer Sir Alec Skempton, one of the founders of British Soil Mechanics study, and former head of the department.[5] The departmental building changed its name from Civil Engineering Building to its current name in 2004,[6] a short time after Skempton's death in 2001.


In 1884 the Central Institution of the City & Guilds of London Institute, later the City & Guilds College, appointed a professor, William Unwin, to teach civil and mechanical Engineering, the first teaching in the subject at the predecessors to Imperial College. In 1904, the department was taken over by William Dalby, who held the position until a separate civil engineering department was formed.[7]

From 1913 when the Department of Civil Engineering was separated, the Heads were:

  • 1913–1933: Stephen M. Dixon – (Railways and Bridges)
  • 1933–1956: Alfred Pippard(Structural Analysis and Aeronautical Structures)
  • 1957–1976: Sir Alec Skempton(Soil Mechanics)
  • 1976–1982: Bernard George Neal – (Engineering Structures)
  • 1982–1985: John Ian Munro – (Civil Engineering Systems)
  • 1986–1994: Patrick J. Dowling(Structural Engineering)
  • 1994–1997: Roger E. Hobbs – (Structural Engineering)
  • 1997–1999: Tony M. Ridley – (Transport)
  • 1999–2011: David A. Nethercot(Structural Engineering)
  • 2011–Now: Nick Buenfeld – (Concrete Structures)


The Department currently consists of 5 main Sections:[8]

Each section has its own head and laboratories. Research carried out in the department covers experimental, analytical, computational and theoretical work. Additionally, field research is conducted, especially in the Environmental and Geotechnical Engineering sections. Each section is responsible for their postgraduate courses, taught and non-taught. The Department also houses the Laing O'Rourke Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation.


The college ranks 10th in the world for engineering in the Times Higher Education subject rankings,[9] and the department in particular ranks 3rd in the world, and 2nd in the UK after Cambridge, in the QS World University Rankings.[3] Domestically, the department ranks 2nd on the Complete University Guide's 2019 civil engineering table,[10] and 1st on The Guardian's 2019 civil engineering university subject rankings.[11]


The Department offers both undergraduate and postgraduate level studies, as well as a number of short courses for practising engineers.


The department offers an undergraduate Master of Engineering course which last four years.[12] The department has study-abroad arrangements with universities in Europe, including ETH Zurich, TU-Delft and ENSHM Grenoble, as well as in America, Australia and Hong Kong.[13] All students graduating with the MEng degree are also awarded the Associateship of the City & Guilds Institute, ACGI.


Taught postgraduate courses[14] last for one year lead to a MSc. The department also offers research degrees,[15] leading to either a PhD or EngD. The former are designed to last normally for 3–4 years whereas the latter are normally designed to last for 4 years. All students graduating with any of the postgraduate degrees (MSc, PhD or EngD) are also awarded the Diploma of Imperial College, DIC.

Short coursesEdit

The Department also organises some short courses[16] which involve modules from the taught Master's programme. These courses lead to a certificate of attendance, rather than a degree proper.


The department has a departmental library[17] located on the fourth floor in the Skempton Building. It used to be part of the Imperial College Library, but from 2009 it is a part of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) library. It covers mainly standard reference textbooks, academic journals, proceedings of conferences, geological maps, theses, electronic information resources and a collection of old historic books, some of which date back to the 19th century.[citation needed]


The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has had a significant contribution to the science over the last decades of its existence. From the department's academics, two[18] have been knighted, several others have received other classes of the Order of the British Empire, five[19] people received the Institution of Structural Engineers Gold Medal, nine[20] people delivered the British Geotechnical Association Rankine Lecture and several have been Fellows of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering and have delivered the Geotechnique Lecture.[citation needed]

Several notable people have passed from it and some of them are (in alphabetical order):


The Department has strong links with industry and professional institutions and bodies. Past President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, (ICE) Paul Jowitt[22] is an alumnus of the Department. The previous Head, David A. Nethercot is a past President of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), whereas the current President of the Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED)[23] is the Head of the Structural Engineering Section, Ahmed Elghazouli, who is also the UK's national delegate for international committees for Earthquake Engineering. The current Director of the RAC Foundation[24] is the Department's Professor of Transport Economics, Stephen Glaister[25][26] who is also Partnership Director of Tube Lines and has also been a board member of Transport for London (TfL). The current Head of the Civil & Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT), Andrew J. Whittle[27][28] is also a graduate of the Department.

The strong bonds of the Department with the outside academic and professional world can be seen through the various close collaborations with professional bodies and association. Examples are the prestigious British Geotechnical Association's Rankine Lecture which is hosted every March at Imperial College,[29] the organisation of the Centre for Transport Studies[30] (a collaboration between Imperial College and University College London), several seminars organised by the Institution of Structural Engineers (such as IStructE Gold Medal awards[31]), and seminars organised by the Institution of Civil Engineers and its associated societies such as SECED.


  1. ^ "Department officers and support staff | Faculty of Engineering".
  3. ^ a b "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018 – Engineering – Civil & Structural | Top Universities".
  4. ^ "History of the Department". Imperial College. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Sir Alec Skempton". Imperial College. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  6. ^ Reed, Tanya (5 May 2004). "Daughter unveils Skempton memorial". Imperial College Reporter. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  7. ^ "A Hundred Years of Civil Engineering at South Kensington" (PDF).
  8. ^ Departmental Research Areas
  9. ^ "World University Rankings 2018 by subject: engineering and technology".
  10. ^ "Civil Engineering – University Subject Tables 2019".
  11. ^ "University league tables 2019 | Education | The Guardian".
  12. ^ "Undergraduate Admissions (MEng) | Faculty of Engineering".
  13. ^ "Year Abroad | Faculty of Engineering".
  14. ^ Postgraduate Masters Courses
  15. ^ PhD Opportunities
  16. ^ Continuing professional development (CPD)
  17. ^ Civil Engineering Library
  18. ^ Knights: Alan Harris, Alec Skempton
  19. ^ IStructE Gold Medallists: Alec Skempton, Alan Harris, John Burland, Olgiedr Zienkiewicz, David Nethercot
  20. ^ Rankine Lecturers: Alec Skempton, Alan W. Bishop, Rudolph Glossop, John Burland, Peter Vaughan, David Potts, Nicholas Ambraseys, David Hight and David Henkel
  21. ^ Professor Peter Wolf
  22. ^ ICE President
  23. ^ Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics
  24. ^ Royal Automobile Club Foundation
  25. ^ Stephen Glaister is new RAC Foundation director
  26. ^ RAC Foundation Who's who
  27. ^ Professor Andrew J. Whittle
  28. ^ Andrew Whittle to head Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering – MITnews
  29. ^ ICE Virtual Library – The Rankine Lecture Archived 2013-01-03 at
  30. ^ Centre for Transport Studies
  31. ^ IStructE Gold Medal[permanent dead link]


  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College [1]
  • History of the Department [2]
  • Gay Hannah (2007) The History of Imperial College London 1907–2007: Higher Education and Research in Science, Technology and Medicine. Imperial College Press, London. ISBN 1-86094-709-3.