Choosing ID at Loughborough over Engineering at Cambridge

I am in such a difficult situation I don’t know where to turn at the moment.

The story is: I love my product design A-level course, it has become literally the only reason I go to school anymore (I also do physics, maths and further maths - i just glaze over in those lessons!).

I’ve gone through UCAS, and got all my replies back from the universities I applied for. I’ve got an offer from Loughborough, for their Industrial Design course. I’ve also got an offer from Cambridge, for Engineering Science, at Churchill College.

Now, I know I want to do product design. It feels so right, its fun and challenging, and the course at Loughborough looks fantastic!

The problem is: everyone expects me to go to cambridge. It seems that getting an offer from them, means that i must go there, whether I don’t like the course there or not.

Since i got the offer from cambridge on new years eve, my dads been giving me major grief over my decision to go to loughborough (I havn’t sent off the reply form to UCAS yet though, the decision is still open) … he’s a pretty tough guy to argue against (I don’t seem to have inherited that particular “talent” (sic) :frowning:)

So, after our latest arguament, I’ve decided to scope out what actual product designers think. The main issue of the last arguament was financial secuirity in the future. My dad seems to think that going to cambridge = financial secuirity guaranteed (he’s probably right there), and that studying at loughborough = me living in a box after university (in less words).

I want to know … how financially secure are you product designers in the UK? How was life after you left university? Are there any regrets? In my position, what would you do?

I’ve looked at my product-design options after university, and I’ve found a course at the Royal College of Art, called “Industrial Design Engineering,” that requires a degree in mechanical engineering to apply for.

This seems perfectly suited to my needs, except for the fact that I really dont want to spend 4 years at cambridge beforehand. I’m afraid I’ll lose my lust for designing, end up doing a boring job, and hating myself and my father for the rest of my life. Plus, apparently places on this course at the RCA are pretty hot, and well sought-after. I don’t want to hinge all my ambitions of being a designer on the chance of getting into the RCA! If I go through cambridge, then get rejected from the RCA!

Are there any other UK-based product/industrial design postgraduate courses out there that require a degree in engineering beforehand?

Please, if anyone could help me, you would be doing me such a service, and probably helping shape my life to come. I have to hand in my decision to UCAS by the 28th of april. There’s not much time left to swing the decision of those around me!

Also I would be grateful for the addresses of any other websites where I can post my plea … I’ll be posting this at soon, are there any other product deisgn forums out there?

Thank you all


I’m on the IDE course at the RCA. Couple of things in your post to look at…

Mech Eng:
Off the top of my head I can name one chem. eng, one physicist, a couple of IDers and one electro-mechanical engineer. Mechanical eng is handy, but if you have the flair, imagination and you catch the tutors’ eye with your application, then you will get an interview. The prof has an eye for talented people (I slipped through when his back was turned).

Call up the administrator (prof’s off ill at the mo) and ask if you can have a look about, and a chat with the detainees…

As far as what you do when you leave the RCA… some turn into full-blown ID types, some go into design management, some in to architecturally influenced careers. Full blown ID might be hard as you are competing with those that have a batchelors AND masters in ID. That’s where the MEng comes in… :wink:

Cambridge + IDE.
We have a couple of these types. And Oxford. As bright as they come.

Not a Cambridge engineer, but I know a few. A Cambridge education never hurts (inside or outside-of engineering). Not sure they do a hell of a lot of ID, but they obviously do some.

Other postgrad.
Brunel has a good course, AFAIK, but not sure how it’s viewed in the industry. And there’s always the other european courses that you might be able to blag your way on to…

If you want to do ID, you want to do ID. You won’t be the first to junk a Cambridge place. Trouble is our parents generation are somewhat financially oriented (tarring with broad brush) and are aware of what (MA Cantab) can do to your bank account (doesn’t have to, though).

If you have a sideline in any sporting activity, Loughborough obviously has attractions.

Don’t know how the ID course is seen in the wider world, but it has a strong engineering tradition.

Good luck!

it seems like youve already answered yourself somewhat. you want to do ID, and youve found a school that youre excited about. you say that you dont really try in the engineering type classes taht youre taking now, then what makes you think that youll try/ enjoy them at another school?

think of how many people hate the way that they make a living.
you should make a career out of something that you love.

Sooner or later you cannot depend on your dad. You are the one who has to live with your decisions-not your dad. He wishes the best for you but it really seems that you have your heart set on ID. Sounds like you will regret dropping ID- why waste 4- 5 years of your life on the off-chance of joining an ID program later on.

Dont worry about the money- The money will follow where your passion lies.

I was in a similar position to you: engineering at Cambridge or Design at Brunel (or Loughborough).

So I compromised, but the other way round: I chose (BSc) Industrial Design Engineering* at Brunel (and really enjoyed it), then once that was finished, went to do a cross-discipline Masters (MPhil) in the Engineering dept & the business school at Cambridge (and was amazed by how useful the design skills I’d learned at Brunel were when applied on another degree).

IDE or Design Products at the RCA would be my choice for another (third) degree once I’ve been working in design for a few more years. It’s dissing my own school, would I wouldn’t rate Brunel’s PG design courses as being in the same category. Brunel’s PG courses are much more business-oriented, about developing brands and so on, rather than pure, wonderful ID.

Good luck.

*this has now been renamed Product Design Engineering

Good to see your on the UCAS line, i have just started a BA in product design at Middlesex Uni, and to be honest its really hard to make decisions about where to go and what to do. I was offerd a place at Brunel Uni, with LOWER entry grades needed to get in. But i turned them down, and instead when to Middlesex. I far prefered the links with commerical design, and the course syabus is changing every year so its a very up to date course. In heinsight, i am happy, but going to a less known universtiy means you have quite a lot of monkeys turning up. That don’t really know what they are doing!!!
But there are a good few 6 or so, that sort of know what they are doing, where they want to go, and what day of the week it is! So i would really look a bit more into each course, and look for wat you are going to well in, but also enjoy so working is easy!

to be honest any of those 3 uni’s will b good, think about wat else u want form uni live, which part of the county do u want to live in. and to be honest just go and do what you want to! tell ur dad that you can do fine art at oxford, but its not where fine artists want to go. and most enginners from oxford go into business and banking, as a reult of very chumey industy links that keep giving them high paid jobs! Where do u see ur self in 15 years time?


Hey Aran,

I am one of the current detainees at Loughborough doing the ID course…
I’m in my final year now and am battling through the last few months of my major project and dissertation.

You’re obviously in a tough situation, but I think the difference between Cambridge and Loughborough is pretty huge. For my first two years here I was going out with a girl studying engineering at Cambridge, so have seen a lot of both worlds!

Firstly I think the great thing about the L’boro course is you can make you want from it: there is the option to take modules more ‘techy’-based with a slightly more engineering and technical feel (which results in a BSc) or you can go the other way and do some more User-centred modules or ‘arty’ modules or mix-and-match as you please (giving a BA). You do definitely make what you will. On the flip side to that it is really quite intense. Hard work (he says settling in for a late evening plugged in to CAD…)
Obviosuly you have strengths in maths and physics, so maybe you could pursue those while developing your other ID skills…??

In my eyes, engineering at Camb would be very different - very maths intensive, possibly not quite so ‘hands-on’, very theoretical, and from my experience also a heck of a lot of work! (This is why I now say ex-girlfriend…a busy engineer and a busy designer make for a hard relationship!) But as you say, a degree in Eng from Cam is a ticket (potentially) to a financially secure future. What one of the prev posters said about hitting the RCA after is a very valid comment too - if you can show some flair I’m sure you could combine your eng skills with it impressively.

You’ve gotta work out too what kind of place you wanna live and who you wanna hang out with too - Lboro and Camb are v different! Cambridge will give you the really nice College feel and all the traditions that come with it - great of you’re up for it and mightily impressive, whereas Lboro def gives the more modern ‘Uni’ experience. Great campus and fantastic sports opportunities…

Weigh up your options and what YOU really want to do. Don’t let your others sway your decision. Life int about the money at the end of it, but what you enjoy doing.

Ok, I’m gonna stop gassing. If you want any more opinion on Lbor let me know. The greatest thing I’ve done while I was here too was take a placement year at a consultancy - learnt more there than anywhere else!


Thanks everyone! I’ve got more insight into the choices ahead of me from you guys and the people who’ve emailed me, than from anywhere else!

I must say I’m leaning towards doing engineering at cambridge, then doing a postgraduate course in ID … if not at the RCA, then abroad, perhaps!

I just hope I dont lose the spark and my drive for ID while at cambrdige!

I guess I’ll just have to take my sketchbook and some pens, and keep working on the old portfolio! I imagine there’d be great potential for self-generated projects in a college that houses no design-department at all!

Thanks again everyone! love you all