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Finite element analysis: basic principles and applications

Engineering is at the heart of modern life. Today engineers use computers and software in the design and manufacture of most of the products, processes and systems that make up our lifestyles. This module introduces the finite element method and instils the need for comprehensive evaluation and checking when interpreting results. It covers basic theory; modelling, meshing and analysing component models for stresses, deflections, temperatures and vibrations under operating conditions and loads; treatment of boundary conditions and restraints; and examples of good practice for safe and effective application in use.

Vocational relevance

The module will be particularly applicable for engineers and scientists who want to understand the fundamental theory of Finite Element Analysis (FEA), and gain some practical experience in the techniques to safely model and analyse engineering products and problems.


T804 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards M03, which is no longer available to new students.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


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 postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
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Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

The module is divided into three main blocks covering:

  • an introduction to the finite element analysis method and general theory
  • linear, structural analysis and heat transfer
  • dynamics, vibration modal analysis and an introduction to non-linear problems and approaches.

The module will emphasise the need to:

  • understand the overall physics and engineering of the problem to be solved, and the loads and boundary conditions to apply
  • be clear what the problem is, what is being modelled and to formulate a systematic plan of analysis beforehand.

You'll be shown how to conduct a linear finite element stress analysis of a loaded component, how to conduct a linear thermal analysis of a heated component and how to conduct a normal mode dynamics analysis of a free unloaded component. Also you will be given guidance on how to report the results of such analyses to an industrial type client.

Overall you should become competent and safe in using computer-aided finite element analysis tools in an industrial engineering and design environment.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress on the module, marking and commenting on your work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. Your tutor will also mediate an online forum for your tutor group in which participation is optional. In addition, a minimum of six online tutorials will be offered throughout the module.

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


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignment (TMA). You must also submit your end-of-module assessment (EMA) online.

Course work includes

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

Future availability

Finite element analysis: basic principles and applications (T804) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2020.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2022.


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.

    Entry requirements

    This module can be taken on its own or as a module of a qualification.

    If you are taking it as part of a postgraduate qualification, you must have adequate preparation for study at this level, usually demonstrated by a bachelors degree (or the equivalent) from a UK university. Ideally you should have an honours degree in mechanical engineering and be familiar with subjects such as stress analysis, heat transfer, vibrations, matrix algebra and calculus. An online self-evaluation test is available that illustrates recommended entry skills in mathematics and engineering and may help you identify potential areas for revision.

    In addition, you may wish to take a look at our free online course Succeeding in postgraduate study before you embark on T804. This course will introduce you to the nature of Master's level study. It offers essential preparation for pursuing your learning at this level.

    Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Outside the UK

    The study material is suitable for a world-wide English-speaking audience but due to software restrictions, the module is only offered to students in the UK and Western Europe. It may be possible for students outside these regions to register on the module, subject to separate arrangements made with the software supplier locally.


    Start End England fee Register
    01 Nov 2020 Apr 2021 £1440.00

    Registration closes 08/10/20 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2022.

    Future availability

    Finite element analysis: basic principles and applications (T804) starts once a year – in November.

    This page describes the module that will start in November 2020.

    We expect it to start for the last time in November 2022.

    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.

    Ways to pay for this module

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    The study material is available online from the module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • access to the module software
    • course-specific module materials
    • FEA exercises and case studies
    • assessment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access
    • access to online forums.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. In some cases (offshore on oil rigs, for example), internet access may be restricted by firewalls. The FEA software used requires internet access that may be blocked by more restrictive firewalls. 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 an up-to-date version of Windows. (For optimum performance in running the FEA software, you’ll need a 64-bit Windows operating system)

    The screen of the device 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

    Finite element analysis software is a complex software comprising menus, dialogue boxes, text input boxes and textual and visual output. The visual output will vary according to the input parameters and as such, cannot be anticipated and therefore figure descriptions are not possible. Screen readers will not work with this software. If you have a visual impairment you may find using this software challenging and if you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

    The materials for this module are provided as a series of web pages via the module website. Some online material may not be fully accessible using a screen reader (and mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Transcripts of any audio material are available and other alternative formats of the study materials, including alternative electronic text that can also be printed, may be available in the future. 

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.