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Brunel and partners FACE up to the risks of future floods

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In the UK and worldwide, flooding devastates homes and livelihoods, battering communities and economies. And climate change is making river and coastal flooding more frequent and more powerful. Against this increasing need to deal with the impacts of flooding, Brunel University London and its partners, the Environment Agency and HR Wallingford, have joined forces to embrace these challenges and train the environmentally-aware flood risk engineers of the future.

At today's event, 'Facing the Future: Working together to tackle global challenges', senior staff from the three partners officially launched their suite of Flood and Coastal Engineering (FACE) courses, which will be delivered from this September – and are recruiting now.

The Environment Agency identified the need for these courses and is funding 20 places each year on the two-year foundation degree (FdSc): a practically-based, industry-relevant and innovative programme which produces job-ready, accredited engineers. Students spend 6 months of each year on industry placement, and have potential employment with the Environment Agency or local authorities on graduation.

Brunel and HR Wallingford, a world-leading independent civil engineering and environmental hydraulics organisation based in Oxfordshire, have designed and will deliver the foundation degree as well as the two-year, part-time top-up to full bachelor's degree (BSc) and the two-year, part-time master's degree (MSc).

In addition to teaching, HR Wallingford will also host a week-long residential summer school at their world-renowned laboratory facilities, where students can get hands on using large-scale physical models to test scenarios. The laboratory is used to assess and optimise the design of river, flood defence and coastal engineering schemes, as well as to test and develop the performance of flood protection products.

The industry placements and summer school are complemented by a research-led academic programme taught by leading academics and practitioners at Brunel's Uxbridge campus, and by a continuous professional development programme, including guest lectures, reflective activities and conferences.

Flood risk is a threat that needs to be collectively managed with commitment and determination to better protect the nation. The partnership, assured until at least 2024, has been forged to deliver against the skills need for flood risk management in the UK: engineers who are able to embrace emerging technology such as Building Information Modelling, complementing their traditional civil engineering capabilities and stakeholder management skills.

Speaking at the event, Professor Julia Buckingham, President and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, explained: “Our research results from an absolute determination to address and find solutions to key challenges we all face and to do so in order – quite simply – to make the world a better place.

“Our partnership with the Environment Agency and HR Wallingford, together with these programmes and what they represent, comprise a clear demonstration that we share such an accord. I am delighted that we are able to make such a clear statement of intent, and that this university is at the forefront of the innovations that are without doubt of vital importance to society today.”

John Curtin, Executive Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, added: “These new programmes offer excellent opportunities for students at all levels and builds on the legacy of our work in higher education over the last 14 years. We want to attract the brightest students from all backgrounds so that we can help to develop engineers to support communities as we tackle the flood risk challenges of the future together.”

Dr Mike Dearnaley, Director of Technical Excellence at HR Wallingford, said: “The partnership with Brunel and the Environment Agency allows us to deliver innovative courses which are practically-based. A professional programme running alongside the academic learning will ensure workplace-ready graduates with skills to make a real contribution to the key challenges faced by our industry.”

Brunel's involvement sits alongside other ways in which it is addressing current issues and challenges in society, such as through its research into energy-efficient and sustainable technologies, smart power networks and the response to pollution.

For more information on the Flood and Coastal Engineering courses, and to apply, visit our Flood and Coastal Engineering pages.