Electrical power systems engineering: the next generation

It’s clear electrical power systems have a pivotal role to play in getting us on track for net zero, and for a greener, more sustainable planet more generally. This is an exciting prospect for the workforce right now, and a growing number of ambitious professionals are engaging with online learning to set themselves up for a leading role in what are set to be game-changing years.

The IET-accredited online MSc in Electrical Power Systems Engineering from The University of Manchester is a great example of high-quality flexible learning, designed to be completed in parallel with a day-to-day job in the sector.  

Its students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, spanning the breadth of electrical power systems engineering and beyond, and log on from countries across the globe – some working with longstanding and complex systems, and others that are building power systems from the ground up.

Victoria Nakalembe, a current student on the programme and systems engineer at Eskom Uganda Ltd, says: “My mind has been opened to a bigger world. Working closely with engineers from countries with more robust power systems, I’m able to think about how to do things better, understand various software options, and learn from the challenges that other students in more developed countries have come across”. 

Whatever their reason for doing the course, whoever they work for, and wherever they’re from, what all these students have in common is a commitment to their continuous professional development, an appreciation of the value of this improvement for the sector, and a progressive outlook for the future of energy.


Integrating study with work for a richer experience 

Studying part-time, and online, is increasingly popular. With recent advances in digital teaching and communication tools, it’s convenient, and it can be completed in the midst of a busy working life.  

For many, though, it’s more than a matter of convenience. Working and studying together creates a richer experience of both.  

On-the-job experience feeds into learning, helping students to understand and contextualise concepts; and learning feeds directly – and often instantly – into students’ working methods and approaches to problem solving. 

Stephanie Whitehead, an electrical engineer at the Ministry of Defence who is currently studying towards the MSc, says: “The fact that I can learn something on a Sunday and take it to work on a Monday and use it the very next day is fantastic! That immediate practical application to my work – seeing knowledge in action – is so rewarding”. 


The broad curriculum of this popular course means that students gain a wider understanding of the sector, a better sense of the bigger picture – and where they fit into that picture. This wider understanding boosts their confidence in the workplace, and enables them to make meaningful contributions, even outside their immediate remit.  

Alongside more obvious career benefits, such as taking on more responsibility at work, or achieving IET chartership, the online MSc from The University of Manchester opens up possibilities for the future, and poises graduates to respond to the evolving needs of the sector.  

As Stephanie says: “I’m not sure exactly where I want to end up, but I know I want to always be in the position to take up interesting opportunities as and when they come along. Upskilling is key to that”.  

In a sector that’s evolving at such a pace, those possibilities are vast, unpredictable and compelling.  

Collaboration in a rapidly changing sector 

Electrical power systems engineering is at the apex of change, with the commanding potential to transform outdated systems for the better, and in doing so, change the course of our planet. 

Tim Waugh, recent graduate and senior design engineer at Siemens says: “I’m really happy to be part of exciting projects and to be part of the team that’s responsible for implementing renewable energy and lowering our carbon footprint. It’s quite exciting as an engineer to be delving in to new territory, and working on something that will really make a difference”. 

In order to make that difference, the workforce must keep up with the rapid pace of change, through courses such as this, and more specifically, through constructive collaboration between industry and academia.  


Another recent graduate, David Bain, who works as a protection engineer for Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), says: “The industry has been relatively static, but now it’s changing all the time and it’s going to continue to change. Collaboration between academics and industry is more important than ever. We’re starting to see this as we the network evolves from a passive system, using really interesting technologies to implement interactive smart grids and microgrids. It’s too big a job for industry to do itself”. 

A progressive and agile sector capable of bringing in an innovative new era of electrical power systems requires a solid culture of knowledge sharing between colleague and students, between research institutions and workplaces, across industries and among nations.  

In that spirit, Victoria is committed to sharing the skills and knowledge from her MSc to help bolster expertise and confidence within her country and transform its energy systems.  

She says: “My MSc puts me in a privileged position. It’s my responsibility to pass on my knowledge and hold the hand of younger engineers. Together, we can build expertise now, and for the future”. 

There’s a real sense of willingness and motivation among Manchester’s online MSc students to take on the responsibility Victoria describes and support the sector to move forward in response to the challenges it currently faces.  

By pursuing a course that encourages the interconnectedness of work and study so intimately, these students are well placed to set a precedent for collaboration on all levels. A reciprocal knowledge transfer between academia and industry will yield innovation and galvanise today’s ambitious engineers to make real strides in protecting our planet and enabling its inhabitants to thrive.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles