Q&A with Professor Dennis Buchanan

Q1. What will the course fee be for this year and what funding be available?
The course fees can be found here.
Candidates who have been accepted on the course will be eligible for the award of a scholarship under a range of schemes. Consideration for the award of a scholarship will be undertaken as part of the admission process and an award will be based on academic criteria using the information provided in the course application form.

Q2. Do I need to secure financing before I apply for the course?
Financial support from course scholarships would never exceed 30% of the overall cost of the course.  You need to ensure therefore that you have a strategy for funding yourself before applying.  If you indicate that you are unable to meet the cost of the course without offering an explanation as to how you intend to address the issue I would be unable to process your application. Admitting a candidate to the MSc is obviously dependent on their having the financial resources to support themselves.  Consideration for outside scholarships are not normally predicated on your holding a firm offer so you should have approached potential scholarship trustees by the time you put in an application for admission onto the course and indicate on the application form in the appropriate space when you expect a decision.

Q3. Who will be the lecturers for the course?

There will, with myself, be a core group of about six colleagues who will take on the major share of the teaching with at least that number again contributing to the programme. I am planning an open day in January (Details on home page) for course applicants when there will be an opportunity to meet faculty.  In addition outside speakers from industry will make regular contributions to workshop and seminar sessions. The continuing professional development programme into which parts of the MSc will be integrated will allow further interaction with both contributors and delegates.
Q4. Will students be alumni of the business school as well as the earth science dept?

The course is a combined Department of Earth Science & Engineering/Imperial College Business School programme so you will be entitled to state on a CV that you were a student at either or both.  Strictly speaking therefore if you successfully complete the course your formal qualification would be a graduate of the University, not of any particular Department or School.

Q5. Are there any projects preapproved by industry for students?
No, as an integral part of the educational value of presenting a dissertation is the effort needed to generate a proposal.  Having said that, students often work in collaboration with outside organisations in industry and finance when generating their dissertations.

Q6. How will the Spanish language option be taught, and by whom?
This question may not be relevant to you depending on your ability in mathematics. A basic proficiency in mathematics is needed to flourish on the course. This requires an understanding of matrices and linear algebra (calculus and optimisation), probability theory, discrete and continuous time stochastic processes, and partial differential equations. Those applicants who are not familiar with these techniques will be required to follow the foundation mathematics course as an alternative to the language option.  The College has a dedicated e-Learning site called Metric which is designed specifically for people who need to enhance their skills in mathematics ahead of entering one of our degree programmes.
If you have studied maths at University level then you would follow the language option. This is taught by specialist staff in the humanities department as a combination of class room and language laboratory sessions.

Q7. To clarify the above, to enter the course do I need a qualification in mathematics that is usually taken at an engineering university level?

No and this is where you do need to visit the Metric web site to undertake a self-assessment. At a minimum you should be able to handle the undergraduate course which is effectively equivalent to the British AS level in maths. We provide foundation maths (see Q 5) as part of the degree to cover those components needed for geostatistics and quantitative finance for students who do not have mathematics at the level of those with engineering backgrounds.  For those who want to go beyond the undergraduate course on Metric and anticipate the topics to be covered in the supplementary maths course then work through the A2 course on Metric.

Q8. What will the class size be? What teaching methods will be employed e.g. case method or regular teaching style.

Class sizes will vary depending on the subject and several are combined with other MSc courses but these do not normally exceed 60 students.  The foundation mathematics and language could be in a group as small as six people.  Teaching methods vary from traditional lecture format through to workshops, seminars and e-Learning as already mentioned above.

Q9. What site visits are planned for the course?
Students will be taken on a three-day excursion to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site that includes beach exposures of reservoir rocks, oil seepage and environmental consideration in the design of production facilities.  The main two-week excursion in May is normally to South Africa where a range of minerals, metals and energy projects will be included in the itinerary.
Q10. What are the employment prospects after completing the course?

We cannot offer any guarantees about your immediately securing employment in the natural resource business on graduation, but within the present climate of high commodity prices volatility and M&A investment opportunities in the sector there is a real demand for skilled professionals with relevant qualifications.  The 2008 credit crisis has simply emphasised the importance of good training in technical and financial aspects of the commodity business.  The assets are tangible and produce products that are traded internationally and generate cash in hard currency. Metals and Energy projects are good businesses to get into, provided the technical risks are understood when making investment decisions. 

Q11. What Career Support Services are offered?

The MSc in Metals and Energy Finance is very specifically focused on the natural resource business and right through the year we receive expressions of interest in recruiting from the programme.  Enquiries to recruit from the current cohort of students or from graduates come from the investment banking community, the new business development divisions of major mining and petroleum groups and independent business analysis and consultancy groups focused on the mining, metals, power, energy, cables, fertilizer and chemical sectors. The MSc also has a dedicated LinkedIn Group site for alumni of the programme where details of career opportunities are posted.

Q12. What is the deadline for receipt of applications for the course?

I am limited to 25 places and applications far exceed this number.  When the number of applications goes up to a factor of eight we close the on-line admissions system which normally occurs by the end of April. Given that the course is over subscribed I am unable to make you an offer of admission if applicants in their final undergraduate year have yet to be awa rded their degree. If you are in that position you can nevertheless apply and if you meet the admission criteria you will be placed on a reserve list. Once the degree is awarded you let me know. Places do become available in the summer as candidates holding offers fail to pay their deposit within the 30 day period required. The offer is then withdrawn and the reserve list reviewed and ranked by academic merit.


Q13. "I am thinking about working in a Futures Exchange trading in metals and energy contracts.  Can the MSc in Metals and Energy Finance programme lead me to this type of career?"

While the short answer is "yes" (as the course includes full modules in Quantitative Finance which covers the underlying theory used to value securities which includes the most famous and ubiquitous model the Black-Scholes options pricing model) it was not designed with this in mind. There are specific Imperial College MSc programmes in the Business School and Department of Mathematics that focus on the quant aspects of finance used in investment banks and hedge funds. Futures Exchanges employ "quants" who work on the advanced mathematics of derivatives and their models are applied by traders. They are paid to act and the decisions they make depend on the computer programs written by quants although the traders may themselves be less concerned with the underlying theory. 

Traders use the models developed by the quants and have a different role in the financial services sector. 

The perspective of the MSc in Metals and Energy Finance is that it is the integration of financial and technical factors that allow for objective investment decisions in natural resource projects. The ToF modules also cover the Capital Asset Pricing Model used to price securities while there are complementary modules in financial accounting, cash flow modelling and project appraisal.  Within the context of the MSc in Metals and Energy Finance therefore, understanding the role of hedging in securing debt, accurately estimating the cost of equity, being able to design sophisticated financial models for decision-making are all part of a balanced mix that includes minerals and petroleum engineering, geosciences, geostatistics and entrepreneurial skills.  These can result in a career in the financial services sector, but also with the new business divisions of major natural resource companies as well as the consultancy services that support them. Graduates will also be equipped to start their own natural resource companies.