Finite element analysis: principles and applications

Engineering is at the heart of modern life. Today, engineers use computers and software to design and manufacture most of the products, processes and systems in our lives. This module introduces finite element analysis (FEA) 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.

Vocational relevance

The module is for engineers and scientists who want to understand the fundamental theory of FEA and gain practical experience in the techniques to model and analyse engineering products and problems safely.


T808 is an option module in our:

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
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

The module comprises three blocks.

All blocks include modelling and analysis using ANSYS. These activities teach you how to use the software, plus the finer points of modelling and the importance of verifying and quality-checking results.

Block 1
The first week of Block 1 introduces postgraduate study skills, such as critical reflection and the requirements of an FEA analysis technical report. It also covers the finite element method’s role in today’s industry. It then introduces the finite element method. It uses FEA software (ANSYS Workbench) to illustrate the basic theory and apply it to the linear analysis of stresses and deflections in solids, heat transfer, and thermal stresses. Alongside FEA theory, Block 1 gives an overview of 3D stress analysis and principles, the understanding of which is important in modelling and FEA. The block ends with an overview of FEA thermal stress and diffusion analysis.

Block 2
The second block covers more advanced topics on FEA, including analysis of non-linear processes. These include large deflections, buckling, non-constant material properties and thermal radiation. The theory will be supplemented by activities and exercises using ANSYS.

Block 3
The final block starts with a review of the theory of mechanical vibrations, including multi-dimensional mass-spring systems and Euler beam theory. It describes finite element formulation of vibrating systems, considering both free and forced vibrations. It also covers modal analysis, transient response analysis, harmonic response analysis and wave/sound propagation. The theory will be complemented by activities and exercises using ANSYS.

You will learn

You’ll learn how to determine non-linear behaviour of a structure under load and how to conduct a linear finite element stress analysis of a loaded component, a thermal analysis of a heated radiating component, and a normal mode dynamics analysis of a free unloaded component. You’ll also learn how to report the results of such analyses to an industrial-type client.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in the module forum.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
2 Interactive computer-marked assignments (CMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Finite element analysis: principles and applications (T808) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2031.


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

There are no entry requirements for this qualification.

Although this qualification has no entry requirements, we recommend you have:

  • A UK honours degree (or equivalent) in mechanical engineering, or be familiar with subjects like:
    • calculus
    • heat transfer
    • matrix algebra
    • stress analysis
    • vibrations.
  • Minimum IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores of:
    • Reading: 5.5
    • Writing: 5.5
    • Speaking: 5.5
    • Listening: 5.5
    • Overall: 6.0.

Our free course, Succeeding in postgraduate study, helps you develop the skills and confidence to manage the requirements and demands of postgraduate study.

Preparatory work

We provide some revision material in the module resources. We encourage you to read those if you don’t have a mechanical engineering background.


Start End England fee Register
01 Nov 2024 Apr 2025 £1660.00

Registration closes 03/10/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2031.

Future availability

Finite element analysis: principles and applications (T808) starts once a year – in November.

This page describes the module that will start in November 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in November 2031.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer 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

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • access to the module software
  • course-specific module materials, including activities and video interviews
  • FEA exercises and case studies
  • screencasts of some of the FEA exercises
  • assignment details and submission section
  • access to online rooms
  • online tutorial access.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date 64-bit version of Windows (10 or 11)*. Any macOS is unsuitable.

Minimum and recommended requirements for The Open University ANSYS software:

  • Minimum i3 processor or equivalent (i5 equivalent or above recommended).
  • Minimum 512 MB graphics card (1 GB or higher recommended).
  • Minimum 4 GB of RAM* (8 GB or more recommended).
  • Minimum 25 GB hard drive (50 GB or larger strongly recommended).
  • Physical ‘C:/’ drive present.
  • You’ll need administrator privileges on your machine.
  • OpenGL-capable.

*A version of ANSYS for Linux OS is also available. The Linux version may require more than 4 GB of RAM.

In addition:

  • You’ll need control over your internet connection settings – corporate firewalls may prevent FEA software from accessing the Internet.
  • 22" or larger monitor recommended.

See System and browser requirements for Ansys software for information on Ansys Student Version.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

If you have a disability

Finite element analysis software is complex, comprising menus, dialogue boxes, text input boxes and textual and visual output. The visual output varies according to the input parameters, so can’t be anticipated. We provide descriptions for all figures. Screen readers might not work with this software. If you have a visual or manual dexterity impairment, you could find using this software challenging.

The materials for this module are a series of web pages. Some online material might not be fully accessible using a screen reader (mathematical and scientific materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). We provide transcripts of audio material and alternative formats of other study materials, including electronic text that you can print.

If you have particular study requirements, 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 out more about what we offer.

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

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