Help please in deciding on courses in the UK

Which course would you recomend?

  • Loughborough University BA Industrial Design and Technology degree with 1 year paid experience
  • Brunel University BA Industrial Design and Technology degree with 1 year paid experience
  • Hertfordshire University 3 year BA Model Design and Model Effects course
  • Herfordshire University 3 Year BS Product Design

0 voters

I live in the UK I’m looking to get into product/industrial design, model making and possibly special effects related industries and been looking at university degree courses.

Firstly, wondering is this the way to go or will it be a waste of several years and serious debt which won’t be any use for finding work, or is a degree essential for getting a professional designer job with a company like yours?

I thought it wiser to do my homework and research before, not after committing to a 3-4 year very expensive course.

I am also 36 years now and would be about 40 when I finish how much would that go against me?

If a 3 year degree or sandwich degree course with a year’s placement is a good route to take, what should I look for in a course which would get myself employed, and how much experience would I need after it? Plus any advice on how to get it, what kind of experience that should be and what to avoid please? Plus what do you look for portfolio wise

Have you had dealings or employed anyone from the following courses and could you recommend which out of the following I should choose please.

My short list is
The 4 year (Including 1 year’s paid industrial placement.) Industrial Design BA courses at Loughborough and Brunel Universities.

The 3 year University of Hertfordshire effects degree where after you do the first core year you choose between Model Design and Model Effects, Character Creation and Technical Effects, or Special Effects BA Hons routes.
(The model making route is the one I am currently looking to do)

Or the 3 year Product BA/Industrial Design BSc also at the University of Hertfordshire degree (common core year)

Both the industrial design and model making/effects degree courses would have access to ceramic and composite/fibre-glass workshops that are not at Brunel or Loughborough universities (plus a visual effects and computer animation department I may be able to get additional training in), but lack the guaranteed year’s paid experience the 4 year courses have, just providing possibly a few months unpaid experience.

Is it essential to a BSc verses a BA course or does it not matter?

Also finishing aged 40 would have a particular relevance to entry level income as well. Whilst not expecting huge salary starts, 40 is a bit old to have to live at home with my retired mother unable to get a mortgage or rent a flat if you get the drift so wondering what entry level income is likely to be in these fields and as mentioned how much experience would be needed. I have had nearly 3 years graphic design and couple of years LARP foam prop weapon making experience in addition to many little jobs in retail, 10 years on film/TV set film extra (plus some runner)work, merchandising, promotions and other odd jobs.

Portfolio examples I have so far include chris_roses_portfolio | Flickr

Links to the courses are
Loughborough University Industrial Design and Technology BA

Brunel University Industrial Design and Technology BA

University of Hertfordshire Effects/Model making degree

University of Hertfordshire Product Design

Please can you help me decide what to do next.
Thank you for your time.


I’m a finalist at Lboro so can give you some advice about our program.

Well it’s hard, from the top three uni’s in product design i personally think we have the toughest workload, due to the incredibly broad nature of the course.

Our course litterally covers everything, not only do we have to come up with the blue sky ideas but we have to prove they will work. We can’t get away with it just being purley mechanical looking in terms of aesthetics nor can we get away with a pretty render and leaving it at that. Personally i think lboro is smack bang in the middle between Northumbria and Brunel.

Also your work placement is not guarranteed, and when you say “paid” this can vary. Personally i got paid well under the minimum wage. Some people were not paid at all. This isn’t just a lboro thing, this goes for every uni factoring in placements into the year. To put into contrast if you were paid £10k plus on your placement year you were extremely lucky. Just to re iterrate you have to be good enought to get a placement, and you have to pretty much find it yourself, it will not be handed to you. I know people in my year who were unable to get a placement and they were techncialy on the 4 year sandwich course. Also some placements are dreadful, Uni’s might boast statsitcs of 75% of our students go on placement but some are just utter crap and not Industrial Design placements. Furthermore the competition is extremely fierce. That said the a few top consultancies will only consider lboro, brunel or northumbria graduates.

Our course is incredibly broad, so much so DCA (No.1 UK design consultancy) have recently come round head hunting interviewing for both placements and entry level positions.

You do very little model making at lboro. There is a blue foam module in the first year, a hand held device in the second year, an injection mould and then all of a sudden its your final year and you have to make a sweet looking model. Personally i think it is one of the major downsides of the course. (That said i dont know many top notch consultancies that expect their designers to produce real looking models)

The BA\BSC ok so i am not a hiring\firing person but generaly this will only matter dependent on the job and tbh its your portofolio that counts. Hopefully one of the seasoned pros like R or Yo might be able to comment on that.

Is uni right for you? well thats really only decided but factoring in your age, you will be by far the oldest, and against people who whave no commitments and will work for nothing.Secondly imo the first year is a massive waste of time. Seriously it is just about getting accliamtised to uni. So in terms of money your wasting that year.

I would add that for me and most of my peers i have learn’t most of skills outside of uni, on placement and from my year group (it really helps to have a strong year group). This probably goes for every design student. What i mean is that i have had to take the time outside of lectures and workshops to practice and develop skills such as Sketching, CAD, presentational work. Uni has just provided a taster in my opinion and an safe enironment in which to experiment. Really what i am trying to say is that Uni will not make you automatically good at design that is soley up to yourself to put in the extra effort.

Entry level pay… well that varies again but it will be low £20k. Higher if your sort after by multiple companies. The Jobs im looking at are around £22k, few have been below the £20k mark.

My personal suggestion would be to get on a masters program and try and land a couple of summer internships. Simply because the first year is such a waste of time and it will be saving you money. However, i am not in the position to hire and fire so you will probably want to get their opinion.

Hope that helps

Thanks. Found your placement bit interesting as they were saying placements pay about £17,000 which is appealing when Im getting about £10,000 and never really earned much more then that.

I make making things so may well tinker with workshops for fun but dont know if I would have the time.

One thing I am trying to suss out is why Loughborough is so highly rated.

Both as a university in general as well as the course. You mentioned trying everything.

How much is satisfaction based on all the sporting facilities? and whats it like being somehere the university dominates the town?

Also how much does it cost with things like materials as thats a major worry. And how much and when are eqipment like CNC, rapid prototyping and 3d printers used? Plus any coposite material like fibergalss and kevlair or ceramics used?

More important is how much people actually learn. If can you start clueless and a hazard in th workshop and turn inot an amazing craftsperson with knowlwedge or is it start good end good?

Plus lots of whats life like at Loughborugh info would help not just course stuff

Lboro is highly rated because it does churn out some very good designers. We as a whole are well rounded we have to do every part of design. We also as a department have pretty good facilities. Infact the department is being re built i think next year, i’ve seen the plans and model of the building and it is very impressive. Gutted i wont be seeing it. However, you should bare in mind there is a massive intake 120students roughly per year. So statistically speaking a handfull should be good, and TBH those that are towards the higher end of year have been there from the start. But yes we have grads working in DCA, Seymour Powell, PDD, Nokia etc… although i am sure any university could pull out high profile names which past students now work for.

Also i would say that check out the portofolios on coroflot of lboro, but most are second years and most of the finalists dont bother putting there stuff up.

The town, well honestly it’s awful and i cannot wait to leave Loughborough, not because of the uni or the course but just because of the place. The Campus however is amazing and thats why i chose it over Brunel. Brunel is a concrete playground imo only good thing is it is close to London.

Again the satisfaction stats that uni’s chuck out do not apply to design students. We work bloody hard, much harder than any other course i know people on. Yes it can be hard annoying frustrating but i would not change it for anything in the world. Fact is I have some great mates who are going through it with me, and furthermore employers respect the tough natures of the course and are to a degree slightly sympathtetic. They know how hard we have to work

The placement thing. I mean yeah it is possible to earn 15-17k but if i am honest they are typically the non industrial design placements. I practically worked for free and i know others who were at very good consultancies and were only on 12k and they were in London. Infact some were on as little as 5-6k and had to live in London. Do not fall for any statistics on pay or success rate of placements at any University, fact is they vary gratelly.

Materials, well you pay for that yourself. 3D pinter is dirt cheap 0.50p p\cm3. Fibre glass ceramics you have to source and by yourself. They are not provided. You will probably find this at Brunel too. Again if your worried about material cost i would personally question the desire to study IDT. As an example you do get re imbursed £75 for materials in the final year. I however spent that within the first month. It is what student loans are for.

You dont use the 3D printer until the final year. You use the CNC machines in the second year to produce an injection mould tool that you have designed. That includes learning how to do all the tool paths (Very boring imo). I know that Brunel don’t have to learn how to do tool paths.

You will not turn into an amazing craftsman ( I didn’t see any of the designers at my work placement company make sweet looking model’s, that was what the specifically employed model makers were for.), imo thats not IDT. (I was still pretty much clueless on entering my final year in the workshops) You will learn how things are made, how to style brand, how to develop new products from key insights most importantly you will learn how to manage time and have an understanding for how much things cost in the real world.

Fact is as i mentioned i have learnt so much more in industry and from friends than i have from lectures. I’m probably going to get binned for saying this but their is a reason why some are lectures and not practicing designers. The only other issue i have with Lboro is how very old school and engineering some of the lectures are.

Life at Loughborough? Well tbh i wouldn’t really know first year was allright did rugby few other sports but as soon as i got into second year that all stopped due to demands from the course. I personnally dont do any of the charity stuff or anything like that because i dont have time and simply dont care, would much rather be designing and chilling out with designer buddies.

I love the course and i love the freinds i have made, i would not change any of it for the world. The only other course that may of tempted me if i knew about it at the time of applying was Northumbria, but then they from what i can gather and from recruiters they aren’t too hot on the manufacturing side of things. You should however get someone from their to comment though.

I would maybe question for yourself whether you want to be a model maker or an industrial designer.

modelmaker or industrial designer

Whats the difference as this is a key decisiona as to the kind of person they are, their likes interests and abilities and whats learnt etc etc to be able to work out which I should try and be.

I like making things which work and have purpose neither tehnical enginneer or damian hurst pickeled shark type.

I would rather have a go at making something like walking with dinosaurs where dino took a lunge at kids to scare the crap out of them, I like problem solving and very much hve an attiude of thats hit I can do better then that with a little training.

As well as be into doing the themes from theme parks, specail effects.
(think Mythbusters I and very much of their frame of mind and maturity only more creative and arty) like horror makeup, bulding things, workign things out that look cool and have purpose

I did MA ID at lboro. Sketchme pretty much nailed the description of the place. Although I have to point out that despite him saying the undergrads dont have much workshop time prior to the major project - most models at the degree shows are stunning.

I can’t relate to the age aspect, but in my year we had a guy who was 38ish. PM me if you would like me to dig up his email.

I know nothing about the schools you mention so I will make it quick : just congratulations on your project. Taking a 3 or 4 years long cursus at 40 is a challenge that deserve respect.
At my school they liked to have one or sometimes two people who were up to a career change but it was especially hard for them. Because they were used to having an income, which students of “regular” age aren’t. So that ended with a higher rate of withdrawal.
Good luck !