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Core engineering A

Engineering materials; statics; and electricity generation and storage feature as core engineering topics. This module will introduce you, in an engineering context, to underpinning scientific principles, mathematical techniques and design methodologies. You’ll build your confidence in framing problems, addressing design challenges and formulating engineering solutions. The development of reflective engineering practice is integral throughout. You’ll share and discuss aspects of your study with other students; conduct remote experiments using our award-winning OpenEngineering remote laboratories; and utilise industry-recognised materials-selection software.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
2 9 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module consists of three parts – each supported by a printed book:

Part 1
In part one, you’ll explore the use of materials for engineering and the importance of material choice. You’ll investigate the basic underlying principles that define materials’ properties; and practice materials selection for engineering purposes. The module will show how the internal structure of materials can influence material properties. You’ll use industry-standard software to understand materials selection for appropriate engineering use.

Part 2
You’ll study the essential engineering skill of structural analysis, using graphical methods such as free body force diagrams, bending moment diagrams and shear force diagrams. The module will contextualise this skill with a problem-based case study investigating the Centre Pompidou and the use of the gerberette in the design. Human needs are key to successful engineering design; you’ll apply the knowledge you gain to solving problems related to some structural elements that include the human body. You’ll gain an understanding of the engineers’ theory of bending and link it to the second moment of area; you’ll also extend the theory into the failure criteria of structures. The module will use the Titan crane at Fishguard to draw all the aspects of structural analysis together in a practical example of their application.

Part 3
You’ll study the concepts of the generation and storage of electrical energy, based on the laws of electromagnetism. You’ll also gain an understanding of the transmission and distribution of electricity, for both direct and alternating currents. Along with a knowledge of electrical storage and generation comes a responsibility to understand the demand, ethics and environmental impact of electrical generation. Throughout this part, you’ll use case studies to contextualise your learning and highlight key safety aspects of the generation, use and storage of electrical energy.

Scientific knowledge and mathematical skills are both essential components of engineering – they form a core part of this module and you’ll practise them throughout, with the engineering topics providing a clear context for their application. You’ll practise maths and engineering questions – through interactive quizzes – in preparation for the interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs). We’ll base assignment questions on activities in the module material. You’ll also explore the principles through remote experiments in our OpenEngineering lab; and have opportunities to communicate and work online with other students.

You will learn

This module will develop your understanding of key engineering principles, while helping you to improve your study skills and extend your development as an independent and reflective learner. It will expand on and extend the broad base of engineering you’ve studied at a previous level and prepare you for further study. You’ll become proficient in using a broad range of engineering techniques and become more confident in applying mathematical techniques to solve engineering problems.

Vocational relevance

You’ll learn how the broad discipline of engineering has developed over time, extending your experience of engineering practice and trends, building towards professional engineering practice.

Professional recognition

This module is a compulsory part our undergraduate engineering qualifications. The learning outcomes of these qualifications are designed to fulfil the Engineering Council’s educational requirements under UK-SPEC1. Several of the leading engineering institutions accredit our engineering qualifications.

1UK-SPEC (UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence) sets out the requirements for UK engineers to achieve professional status

Outside the UK

Synchronous tutorials and communications could be difficult to deliver to students outside UK due to time differences. If you can’t attend the synchronous tutorials or make synchronous communications, you’ll have to use asynchronous alternative methods, such as watching recorded tutorials and emailing questions.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a named tutor who will support your studies and mark and comment on your assignment work; you can also seek academic advice and guidance from them. Your tutor will offer support through email, telephone and online forum discussions. Additionally, there will be face-to-face and online tutorials. We will advertise tutorials before the module starts; T271 tutors will take them, but depending on the tutorial, not necessarily your own named tutor. We recommend you book online to attend these tutorials.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


You can find the assessment details for this module in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

Core engineering A (T271) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2025.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

    However, as this is an OU level 2 module you’ll need a good knowledge of the subject area obtained through any of the following:

    • OU level 1 study
    • equivalent work at another university
    • professional experience

    You should have an interest in technologies; numeracy skills, equivalent to that gained through studying an OU level 1 mathematics-related module; and have a standard of academic English appropriate for this level of study.

    If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    Engineering: origins, methods, context (T192) and Engineering: frameworks, analysis, production (T193) would be ideal preparation for this module.


    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Mar 2020 £1506.00

    Registration closes 12/09/19 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2025.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 19/07/2019.

    What's included

    • Access to the module study materials via the module website
    • Three printed module books

    You will need

    • A scientific calculator
    • A device capable of producing digital images (e.g. a smartphone, digital camera or scanner)
    • Basic drawing equipment

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    • A desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7 or higher
    • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T271 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.