Graduate Excellence - Delivering the UK's first engineering degree for food and drink manufacturing

In 2014 a MEng Food Engineering degree course was developed by the Food and Drink Federation; the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink and Sheffield Hallam University with co-investment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills through the Employer Investment Fund. A BEng has since been introduced to give more students the opportunity to study this unique degree.

This degree gives food and drink manufacturers an opportunity to take collective action to secure sufficient flow of highly talented engineering graduates into the food and drink manufacturing industry.

What is Graduate Excellence?

Graduate Excellence is a project that has created the UK's first accredited engineering degree at Master's and Bachelor's level dedicated entirely to the needs of food and drink manufacturing.

The Food Engineering degrees have been developed for the industry, by the industry, and will create a pool of specialist engineers equipped to meet the specific needs of the sector. First entrants on the course began in September 2014.

A part time degree has also been developed for those who are currently working for company but would like to achieve degree level qualifications.

We are also planning to create a degree apprenticeship as a route onto the Food Engineering degrees. This work is being led by the NSA and will also enable companies to utilise Apprenticeship Levy funding.

To enhance the delivery of the degree, a Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering is being developed with support from industry and is due to open in September 2019. The Centre will have state of the art facilities and enable students on the course to be exposed to the latest technological developments.

The development of new engineering talent, working on innovative projects in industry, will position the UK as a global leader in food engineering enabling our industry to be at the cutting-edge of new and emerging technologies.


Why are we doing this?

To achieve the food and drink industry's shared vision with Government to grow by 20% by 2020, we know that we need to attract the best talent. Engineering is one of the most vital specialisms required to increase automation and plant reliability in our industry. However, in 2014 there was no university provision in the UK for food and drink engineering, meaning that new graduates require extensive training on the specific requirements of working in the food industry. New graduates had the degrees, but not the skills, and this is what this degree seeks to change.


What we want to achieve

The Food Engineering degrees will develop the next generation of our industry's advanced engineers and leaders.

Our graduates will:

  • Fully understand the food supply chain
  • Be passionate champions of our industry
  • Have the technical expertise to design and develop new systems to meet future challenges
  • Transform UK food and drink manufacturing by increasing the use of robotics and automation
  • Have the business skills required to make the case for investment to drive productivity
  • Be specialists who can work with and lead others to develop concepts and make them happen
  • Be sophisticated engineers that other sectors look to with envy
  • Value their role and that of their colleagues as part of a team
  • Be the food industry leaders of tomorrow.


Who are we?

The Graduate Excellence partnership consists of the Food and Drink Federation, the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink and Sheffield Hallam University, where the degree will be delivered. The degree has also received co-investment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills through the Employer Investment Fund.

However, fundamental to the success of Graduate Excellence is support from employers across our industry. We are calling on food and drink manufacturers to get involved with the project and support it in any way they can.


Unique Selling Points

The Food Engineering degrees have a number of unique selling points which other degrees do not have. This is to encourage as many students to want to join the course as possible, and to encourage companies to get involved and commit to this project.
Some of these USP's are:

  • Opportunities for business to sponsor students throughout the Food Engineering programmes have been developed.
  • Guest lectures taught by industry professionals.
  • Competitively paid work placements - 2 x 12-week work placements and 1 x 36 week work placement. This gives students the opportunity to work in various food environments and also gives companies the opportunity to meet a variety of students and decide who they would be interested in employing after the students have graduated.
  • The work placements also give the students opportunities for informal and formal interviews with high profile food and drink companies, preparing the students for future interviews.
  • This course has been developed in partnership with industry, there is no module on the course which industry does not feel is beneficial.
  • Students get industry expertise throughout their course in the form of mentors.
    A Meet the Mentor event takes place at the beginning of each year for an event where mentors (currently food engineers) are paired up with students.
  • Industry, along with support from FDF and NSA run an Academic Learning Session on CV writing skills. This is to prepare students for Meet the Employer Day when they meet potential companies which they might get a work placement with.


Get involved

There are many ways food and drink companies can get involved. Some of the options include:

  • Nominating specialist colleagues to participate in the Graduate Excellence Industry Support Group. This allows industry to have a say in parts of the course such as mentors, placements, factory visits and guest lectures.
  • Working with Sheffield Hallam University to recruit high calibre people into the industry
  • Offering a scholarship to a current employee so that they can benefit from the course.
  • Providing a guest lecture to inspire potential team leaders of the future
  • Offering work placements as part of the degree
  • Agreeing to employ Graduate Excellence graduates (subject to final references and grades)
  • Working with suppliers to donate new or nearly new equipment for our Centre of Excellence in Food Engineering
  • Host a factory visit for prospective students or current students, to give them a taster of what it is like to work as an engineer.
  • Provide engineers to support events throughout the year to promote the degree, in particular to support the open days at Sheffield Hallam.

Graduate Excellence: Menu of options form

Fiona Kendrick, Chairman and CEO Nestlé UK & Ireland (FDF President) said:

“At Nestlé, one of the biggest challenges we face is recruiting the best talent for our business. Our success depends on our ability to remain competitive and innovate however a lack of engineering and technical expertise will hold our industry back.

Graduate Excellence is a ground-breaking initiative which will equip graduates with the technical skills and commercial acumen our industry needs. It is an opportunity for food manufacturers to take control of their future and help shape a pipeline of talent. A number of companies, including Nestlé, have already committed their support in a range of ways but I urge companies of all sizes to get involved.”

Find out more

To pledge your support or to find out more please contact: or call 020 7420 7135.


Follow our tweets

Follow us at @Foodanddrinkfed. If you want to catch up with our launch event tweets, then simply search Twitter by for the hash tag #foodengineering.


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Last reviewed: 05 Mar 2019