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FdSc Nautical Science

UCAS code: 
Institution code: 
East Coast College (Lowestoft)


Three years full time

Typical Offer: 

2023-24 and 2024-25 entry; 48 UCAS tariff points (or above)
CDD (A-Level), MMP (BTEC),  Pass A*-C (T Level)


A career at sea offers a wealth of exciting opportunities for anyone looking for adventure and a job away from the usual humdrum of a desk job. The Merchant Navy is the collective term for commercial shipping. Merchant Navy includes a diverse and extensive industry sector with a variety of vessels from cruise liners, container, general cargo, tankers, aggregate seabed mining, surveying and scientific exploration, ocean cable laying and repair, wind farming integration, tugs, and offshore support and emergency response and recovery.

This fast-moving and technologically advanced industry requires highly trained ship officers in Navigation (Deck) with a Certificate of Competency issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s primary responsibility is to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea. They produce legislation and guidance on maritime matters and provide certification to seafarers in accordance with International Maritime Organization, which is a specialized agency under the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping. Since the merchant fleet operates in international waters and foreign ports with the multinational crew onboard, Maritime and Coastguard Agency follows the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers to standardize training, certification, and watchkeeping.

There are various entry routes available to start a career at sea within the Merchant Navy, which includes fully sponsored training programs and apprenticeships. The first step to becoming a Deck Officer (sometimes referred to as a Navigation Officer) in the Merchant Navy is to complete a Foundation Deck Cadet Training program.
University of Suffolk at East Coast College offers a program designed for home students only who wish to proceed to sea.

You will study a three-year integrated programme at East Coast College (Lowestoft Campus) that gives you skills sought by shipping companies. The Foundation degree is delivered as a 3-year full-time programme with 5 phases. The first, third, and fifth phases will be delivered in college and will be referred to as “College Phases.” While phases 2 and 4 will give appropriate time to learn onboard the vessel and will typically be referred to as “Sea Phases.” The students will be required to accumulate a total of one year of sea time during the sea phases and complete work-based learning module. On successful completion of all the taught modules in College Phases and Work-based learning modules in Sea Phases, the students will achieve a Foundation Degree in Nautical Science.

You will gain core leadership, navigation, shipboard operation, and meteorological skills through time on ships and in our simulator. You have an opportunity to distinguish yourself with a Foundation degree accredited by Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB), which will provide the underpinning knowledge for the Officer of the Watch (OOW) under STCW (Regulation II/1) Unlimited and Chief Mate Under STCW (Regulation II/2) Unlimited Certificates of Competency. Once you complete the mandatory ancillary courses and pass Maritime and Coastguard Agency Oral examination, you will obtain the Officer of the Watch Certificate of Competency to serve as a Deck Officer onboard merchant ships.

The FdSc Nautical Science is to be delivered by the University of Suffolk, via East Coast College.

The FdSc program will combine academic study periods within a Higher Education environment, with periods of fieldwork on board seagoing vessels for sponsored students.

The accredited pathway student will have the opportunity to complete further ancillary courses alongside the program and achieve a Merchant Navy Officer of the Watch (Unlimited) Certificate of Competence.

For non-accredited route students, the work based learning modules are substituted with two optional modules in the year 1 and one core module in the year 2.

Course modules

Full downloadable information regarding all University of Suffolk courses, including Key Facts, Course Aims, Course Structure and Assessment, is available in the Definitive Course Record.

Coastal Navigation and Marine Meteorology

The module is designed to introduce students to the basics of coastal navigation, marine meteorology, and management of charts and publications in preparing, executing, and monitoring a passage plan as an officer of the watch at the operational level as per STCW 95 as amended. In order to prepare a passage plan, students will learn to use mathematical theory and concepts to carryout complex navigational calculations. Additionally, students will use scientific theory to understand the ship's magnetic and Gyrocompasses' principles and appreciate the factors to be considered while using the headings obtained from these instruments.

Ocean Navigation

The module is designed to introduce students to the concepts of ocean navigation. The students will learn the theories of celestial navigation and apply numerical skills to fix the ship's position and calculate compass error using a range of celestial bodies whilst performing the role as an officer of the watch at the operational level as per STCW 95 as amended.

Operations and Legal Principles of Shipping

The module is designed to allow students to learn underpinning knowledge of a range of marine cargo operations topics that will enable them to safely and efficiently carry out cargo operations as an officer of the watch at the operational level as per STCW 95 as amended.

The module will also introduce the students to the current maritime-related legislation, including the relationship between law, codes, and guidance relating to ship operations. Additionally, the module will cover management techniques at the operational level.

Stability and Ship Construction

The module is designed to allow the student to learn the significant features of a ship’s structure and the salient features of a range of ship types along with the principles of stability for box-shaped and ship-shaped vessels to routine situations.

The module covers the location, cause, and effect of internal and external forces with means to counteract these forces. This also introduces the student to the use of the ship’s stress–calculating equipment, principles of hydrostatics, load-line calculations, statical stability, transverse stability, and longitudinal stability. 

Bridge Management

The purpose of this module is to provide students with the tools to maintain a safe and effective bridge watch at the operational level as per STCW 95 as amended. This module introduces students to marine emergency scenarios, response procedures, and communication procedures using the ship's communication equipment.

Academic and Work Based Learning - Operational Level

The purpose of this module is to provide students an opportunity to apply the taught underpinning knowledge gained in the College to onboard activities.

This module prepares the students for sea by equipping them with the academic skills to study independently - engaging with industry and academic literature, handling data in a live context, reflecting on their experiences and the lessons that they have learned and conveying all that information in appropriate forms (both written, verbal or any other means appropriate).

Advanced Navigation and Marine Meteorology

The module is designed to develop navigational skills through the preparation, amendment, and evaluation of passage plan complying with all regulations concerning navigation safety. The module also develops skills to interpret, evaluate meteorological data, and forecast weather that may be encountered during a voyage.

Advanced Bridge and Engine Management

The module is designed to provide knowledge about regulatory aspects regarding navigation at a management level. The module will help learn the manoeuvrability of vessels under various conditions. Furthermore, the module is designed to introduce students to the operating principles of marine power plants, the function of a vessel’s auxiliary machinery, and the concepts of control systems from the point of view of the master of a vessel.

Cargo Operations

The module is designed to introduce students to the planning and operational procedures for safe stowage and securing of dry cargoes and safe handling of oil, gas, and chemical cargoes. This module also covers operational procedures for passenger operations, basic cargo calculation, and loadline zone calculation. 

Research skills and Work Based Learning - Management Level

The purpose of this module is to provide students an opportunity to apply the taught underpinning knowledge gained in the College to onboard activities.  Students will critically appraise a range of study designs and data collection methods and tools and various appropriate analysis methods to produce a report.

Maritime Law and Management

The module is designed to allow the student to understand the legal requirements of shipping at the management level. This module also introduces students to the concepts of management techniques applicable to shipboard operations.

Advanced Ship Stability and Construction

This module will enable learners to develop their knowledge and understanding of concepts of stability, trim, and structural loading for the safe operation of ships. It also includes the knowledge of current national and international regulations concerning stability and construction. This module also covers the ship construction features and systems that may be used to limit the damage as well as the properties, construction, and maintenance of materials, including the methods of maintaining the ship’s equipment/fittings and preparing for statutory surveys. 

Career opportunities

Newly qualified deck officers will usually join their company’s fleet as a third officer, undertaking bridge watchkeeping duties at sea and operational duties in port, with responsibility for the safety of the crew, passengers, cargo, and environment. 

After completing at least 18 months of sea service as a qualified Deck Officer holding Officer of the Watch certification, further training and passing Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) Chief Mate written exams and MCA Oral exams will qualify you to have a position as Chief Mate. A similar pattern of experience needs to be undertaken, including a further 18 months of service before the candidate can qualify as Master (or Captain). In addition to qualifying for more senior roles, you will also have to demonstrate the required personal qualities for promotion as vacancies arise.

Working at sea as a Deck Officer provides a wide variety of experiences and for many provide a lifetime of employment. Numerous opportunities also exist for qualified navigation officers ashore. Shipping companies often recruit shore based marine superintendents and fleet operations staff from their seagoing officers. harbour authorities recruit experienced officers to train as pilots, harbour masters and port operations managers. Classification societies, such as Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, and marine insurance companies require the officers’ skill and experience to fill roles such as hull and cargo surveyors. The MCA also require surveyors and examiners, while maritime colleges recruit lecturers and assessors.

Furthermore, to enhance employment opportunity ashore, a successful completion of foundation degree allows learners to enroll into BSc (Hons) top up programs related to maritime studies across UK.

Fees and finance


  • UK full-time tuition fee: £8,220 p.a
  • UK part-time tuition fee: £1,370 per 20 credits (please contact the Student Centre for further information)
  • International full-time tuition fee:  £13,992 p.a

Further Information

At University of Suffolk, your tuition fees provide access to all the usual teaching and learning facilities that you would expect. However, there may be additional costs associated with you course that you will need to budget for. 


Entry requirements

Course options

The Role and Responsibilities of a Qualified Deck Officer

The Deck Officer is responsible for the safety of the ship's crew, its cargo and the vessel itself. Important decisions are made regarding the navigation and manoeuvring of the ship, with the objective of meeting tight schedules safely and efficiently. Navigating the vessel involves the use of technologically advanced equipment including sophisticated satellite navigation systems. The Officer of the Watch will also monitor weather data receiving equipment from which optimum routes can be calculated.
On arrival in port the ship's crew are involved in the complex and exacting task of berthing the vessel. Whilst tied up in port ships are not generating revenue, so the priority is to unload and load the cargo as quickly and economically as possible. Overseeing this process is the responsibility of the Deck Officer, who will either maintain a sea-going watch pattern or switch to day work, the latter occasionally providing the opportunity for crewmembers to take an excursion ashore.

The Deck Department

The ship's Master is the highest-ranking Officer on board and has overall command and responsibility for the vessel, its crew, any passengers and cargo. The Master (Captain) maintains the ship's records and receives and implements instructions from the operating company of the vessel. The Master will also take command of the vessel in inclement weather or any other emergency and in crowded or narrow waters where the risk of collision is the greatest.
The Chief Mate has direct responsibility for all deck operations including cargo storage and handling, deck maintenance, and deck supplies.
The Second Mate is the ship's Navigation Officer and has the responsibility for maintaining charts and monitoring the navigation equipment on the bridge.
The Third Mate besides navigational watch duties has immediate responsibility for the regular maintenance of emergency survival equipment including lifeboats and life rings.
The Deck Department is supported by ratings whose duties will include supporting the Officer of the Watch, keeping a lookout and steering the vessel when necessary, as well as undertaking maintenance duties whilst not required on watch.

The Varied Lifestyles of a Deck Officer

One interesting aspect of serving as a seafarer in the Merchant Navy is that two days are never the same, and your lifestyle will vary depending upon the type of vessel you are working on.

If you enjoy the idea of world-wide travel you will need to consider working on vessels that trade across the oceans of the world. These vessels will call at some of the ports furthest from home providing the opportunity to experience interesting cultures in far-away countries. The length of voyages are likely to be longer on this type of vessel, although your periods of leave after each voyage will also be proportionately longer. 

The crew you will be serving with are likely to include seafarers from varied nationalities, which will enhance your experiences on board, and you will get to enjoy a range of cuisines from around the world too.

If you would prefer to work closer to home, you may want to consider companies operating vessels around the UK and the near continent. Whilst you may not get to travel the world or experience overseas cultures - you will never be far from home. With shorter tours of duty, your leave will be shorter than those on ocean-trading vessels, although these are likely to be more frequent.

Another option to consider is where vessels typically follow a fixed schedule, often referred to as a ‘liner service’, or carry a single cargo from one port to another port, often referred to as ‘tramping’. 

The sponsorship provided by SSTG leads to an unrestricted qualification, so regardless of which type of vessel you are training on you will be qualified to serve on any type of vessel once you are qualified.

The latest ships are constructed to provide their crews with single accommodation and en-suite facilities. The food will be of good quality and the recreational facility of a high standard. The facilities found on older vessels will vary depending on the age of the vessel, and some may not have internet access, although this is the exception rather than the rule.

Pay, leave rates and welfare benefits will vary between companies, and this will be the case whilst training as well as once qualified. However, when comparing terms offered by different companies it is always important to consider all of the details of the offer. Some might offer better study leave packages in the future with others offering higher salaries.

No matter what type of lifestyle you are looking for from a career at sea, as a seafarer the chances are there will be one that matches what you are looking for.

The lifestyle at sea will depend on the type and trading pattern of each ship but there are usually great opportunities for global travel. The food and accommodation on board is excellent, with single cabins and en-suite facilities for officers on many vessels.  

Holiday, pay, welfare and benefits vary from company to company but are generally very good. For example, a qualified officer after a voyage lasting four months could get two months’ holiday or more. Many UK nationals also benefit enormously from tax-free status, provided they meet the associated requirements.


Maritime Lecturer

Lecturer, University of Suffolk at East Coast College

Lecturer, University of Suffolk at East Coast College

Lecturer in Maritime Studies

Facilities and Resources

East Coast College is equipped with a new Energy Skill Centre at Lowestoft campus, which has state of the art full mission bridge and engine room simulator, the latest in electronic charts, radio installations, safety training facilities, seamanship centre, study spaces, IT rooms, Library, e-learning portals, Gym and more.

Simulation Based Training
The students will be given opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in the taught modules in their work-based placement and build on their skill set at the state of simulator equipment in Eastcoast College. 
The centre’s Bridge Simulation Suite consists of a realistic mock-up of a ship’s bridge with all conventional controls, including Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS), Radar and Automatic radar plotting aids (ARPA), Global satellite navigation systems, Automatic Identification systems (AIS), Magnetic and gyro compasses, steering control systems, logs and echo sounders and Radio communication equipment found on a modern ship.
Two secondary bridges provide additional resources to perform both parallel and integrated bridge scenarios. Each of the bridges can be designated any one of 30 ownership models which include container vessels, fast ferry, oil tanker, offshore, bulk carriers, passenger vessels etc. Movement controls and instruments will then balance and respond exactly as the real ship. All aspects of the ship can be controlled from the instructor station. Weather, tide, visibility and sea state can be changed and varied. Faults can be introduced, including failure of engine’s steering, thrusters etc. Also included in the system is assessment software that will enable detailed evaluation of all aspects of the use of the system. 
The versatility of the equipment means that both individuals and teams can be trained in basic navigation and passage planning and more advanced aspects of Bridge Team Management, Bridge Resource Management and Human Element in Leadership and Management.
The learners will learn certain elements of the modules using modern electronic aids to navigation and advanced communication systems at our sate of art facilities at Energy Skill centre. Some of these modern electronic navigational aids includes -
•    Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) - Is a computer-based navigation system integrating real-time information and can be used as an alternative to paper navigation charts. 
•    Radar and Automatic radar plotting aids (ARPA) - RADAR detects other ships and land obstacles and provides bearing and distance, whereas ARPA is an additional feature to the Radar which takes feed of the own ships instruments and calculates the risk of collision.
•    Global satellite navigation systems – Is a global system of satellites that transmit signals for navigation purposes and helps in calculating ships position.
•    Automatic identification systems (AIS) - is an automatic tracking system, which primarily allows ship to view marine traffic in their area and to be seen by that traffic and shore stations.
•    Magnetic and gyro compasses, steering control systems, logs and echo sounders 
•    Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) - Is a maritime system for emergencies and routine communications.