sourya ghosh tells you how to go about railway engineering courses in India and abroad

RAILWAY engineering is a multi-faceted discipline that primarily focuses on design, construction and operation of systems. It can be described as an amalgamation, a blendingof  a wide range of engineering disciplines such as civil, computer, electrical, mechanical and production.
India boasts one of the largest railway networks in the world with over 71,000 miles of tracks spanning 7,500 stations. The Indian government has an entire ministry dedicated to the development and sustenance of the Railways, earning revenue that spills over to billions of dollars. However, for an industry that shows so much potential there is definitely a scarcity of academic institutions that offer relevant courses. Most railway employees possess transferable skills obtained from one of the constituent engineering disciplines.
Among the few institutes offering this course, the Indian Railways Service of Engineers and the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering tops the list. Of the two, the first is of Class-A cadre, where the officers manage the civil engineering elements of the Railways. Aspirants are recruited through the Indian Engineering Services Exam, which is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission of India, usually in June. Following recruitment, a probationer undergoes rigorous training for 18 months to be an assistant engineer. It is a demanding job and employees often reach the ranks of top-level bureaucrats.
Located at Jamalpur in Bihar, the Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering offers a four-year course of theoretical and practical training, leading to a Bachelor&’s degree in mechanical engineering. The content of the course alternates between classroom and practical sessions, with a strong emphasis on industrial and production engineering. Candidates have to take entrance exams conducted by the UPSCI that comprise written tests in mathematics, physics, chemistry, English language, general knowledge and a psychological test (mental ability). Selected candidates are called for an interview, followed by a medical examination. The syllabus for the entrance test is patterned on the board examination for CBSE. It is a very competitive exam with over 150,000 applications for over 10 seats.
Other institutes offering courses in all relevant fields pertaining to the Railway system in India are the Indian Railway Institute of Civil Engineering, Pune; the Indian Railway Institute of Signal and Telecommunications Engineering, Secunderabad; the Indian Railway Institute of Electrical Engineering, Nasik; the RPF Academy, Lucknow; and the Railway Staff College, Vadodara.
Outside India, the UK shelters some of the finest universities offering railway engineering. The railway system there is world-renowned. The University of Birmingham has earned quite a reputation for their Railway Engineering courses. It offers a post graduation degree in Railway System Engineering and Integration. The course caters to new entrants and professionals alike who are willing to improve their skills.
The University of Southampton and Sheffield Hallam University both offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in railway engineering. Other universities offering similar courses are the University of Leeds, Newcastle University and the University of Huddersfield.
The courses at all these universities are designed to prepare a student adequately and thus incorporate intensive practical modules. Andrew Nunnery, a former graduate from the University of Birmingham recounts that “it was a tough but enjoyable and rewarding course, and now after graduating in 2005 I find I am among a select number of engineers who possess specialist skills”. Most graduates from these universities were successfully placed at reputed companies, including the likes of Atkins, Bombardier, Virgin Trains, Alstom, London Underground and the Network Rail.
The entry requirements for universities in the UK are pretty generic, including minimum stipulated grades in the school leaving examination, Ielts and GRE for proficiency in English, and a decent Honours degree for postgraduate applicants. Students not having a science background can undertake foundation courses.
The tuition fees for international students vary between £10,000-15,000 per annum, varying for each university. Most universities also provide scholarships for meritorious applicants. Students from Commonwealth countries can also avail of various available grants.
Detailed information pertaining to courses and universities is available on all university websites, which are as follows:
n University of Birmingham – http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/railway/index.aspx
n Sheffield Hallam University – http://www.shu.ac.uk/prospectus/course/441/
n University of Southampton – http://www.sr2.soton.ac.uk/
n Newcastle University- http://www.ncl.ac.uk/newrail/