Taught course

Railway Systems Engineering and Management

Heriot-Watt University · School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society

Entry requirements

For MSc level entry

You will need a minimum of a 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in a cognate and semi-cognate subject area. For PG conversion programmes, non-cognate degrees will also be considered.

Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions may be considered as well.

For PG Diploma level entry applicants should have

  • A third class honours degree in a cognate or semi-cognate subject area PLUS 2 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level completed post qualification.
  • A cognate or semi-cognate ordinary degree PLUS 3-4 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level following graduation.

Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and an interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Admissions and the number of successful applicants will be restricted.

There is no entry at PG Certificate level except through exceptional agreement with approved learning partners.

Non-graduating study at masters level

Entry is based on your CV, on formal academic qualifications or graduate (or incorporated) membership of a relevant professional institution.

Months of entry

January, September

Course content

The Railway Systems Engineering and Managements MSc provides students with a thorough understanding of the principles, practices and technological developments relevant to the high speed rail sector. The programme has a strong focus on the emerging research and development, recent railway engineering challenges as well as future trends in the rail industry, both in the UK and internationally.

Delivered by the Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, this programme offers participants the tools to understand and manage the design, operational and contractual requirements of railway systems.

Rail experts

Railway Systems Engineering and Management is delivered by experts in the field of high speed railway engineering, including Professor Peter Woodward and Dr João Pombo, and covers a wide range of relevant disciplines including:

  • High speed track design and train operations
  • Ground vibrations
  • Railway vehicle dynamics and advanced rolling stock modelling
  • Vehicle-infrastructure interaction
  • Life-cycle costs of railway equipment

The Programme Leader, Dr João Pombo, is a specialist in railway dynamics with 18 years’ experience and has been involved in the development of several computer codes with applications to railway engineering. He has led and participated in several projects in close collaboration with leading international research centres and industry players. João Pombo is author of more than 80 papers in refereed journals and international conferences. He is the editor-in-chief of the “International Journal of Railway Technology” and chairman of the "International Conference on Railway Technology" series.

Our students

The programme is designed for civil and mechanical engineering as well as physics graduates who wish to develop an understanding of the principles, scientific developments and technology relevant to the international railway industry.

We also welcome applications from professionals already working in the railway sector and from students and graduates from other backgrounds planning to develop a career in the high speed rail industry.

Career opportunities

Graduates with specialised skills and expertise in developing, designing and operating modern railway systems are highly sought after in the rail industry. Currently there is a worldwide shortage of individuals qualified in this area and there are significant opportunities for graduates to contribute to a broad range of organisations in the rail industry, including:

  • Rail infrastructure managers;
  • Train manufacturers;
  • Vehicle and infrastructure maintenance companies;
  • Regulatory bodies;
  • Engineering SMEs involved in the railway supply chain.

Flexible study options

This programme can be studied full-time, part-time or online via Independent Distance Learning (IDL) which is ideal for those in employment or with other commitments and provides flexible study options that fit around work or family.

Industry links

The direct relationship between the Railway Systems Engineering and Management masters programme and industry needs is reinforced in two ways: a) through projects with an industrial context, and; b) through specific aspects of the taught courses, for example, through presentation of case studies and seminars as well as visiting lecturers from relevant sectors.

The programme also benefits from the close contacts that exist between members of staff and a large number of industry players.

Industry Advisory Committee

This programme is also supported by the Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from major multi-national employers AECOM, ARUP, Balfour Beatty, Halcrow, Jacobs and WSP Group. This committee convenes regularly and advises on the programme content and structure, ensuring quality, up-to-date content and relevance to industry needs.

Information for international students

If English is not the applicant’s first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above.

Applicants who have previously successfully completed programmes delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree programme. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters programme:

  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5);
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading & writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking & listening)

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
84 months
full time
12 months
part time
24 months


distance learning
84 months
part time
24 months
full time
12 months

Course contact details

Dr João Pombo
+44 (0) 131 451 4186