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Homepage / All about standards

All about standards


What are standards?

Standards are documents outlining in detail the rules, guidelines or characteristics for specific products or processes. Standards may be a legal requirement or voluntary.

Standards cover many sectors from engineering and business to sustainability, covering areas such as environmental management systems, blockchains, and automated vehicles, down to determining small details such as the design of screw threads.

After being determined by consensus, standards are approved by recognised organisations. These organisations may be international or relate to specific industries. The approving organisation is denoted in the standard title by letters so you can easily identify where the standard came from. For example:

  • International standards ISO, IEC, ITU
  • European standards EN
  • National standards BSI, ANSI
  • Industry standards ASTM, IEEE

Sometimes standards will be adopted by other countries. If you are looking for an ISO standard, check the British Standards Online portal as it may have been adopted by them and show a code beginning with BS ISO.

Why should you use standards?

Standards are used for many different things and impact all our daily lives. They exist to support trade, allow interoperability, and provide consumer protection and confidence. They save time and money by providing proven and defined properties, capabilities, and processes as a base to work from, and can be used to ensure that products or processes meet legal requirements.

Using standards and understanding how to implement them can provide you with the knowledge, skills, and experience to meet any best practice, safety or legal requirements in your work, but also looks favourable in job interviews and can support you throughout your professional career whether you are an engineer or in business.

How to find standards

If you know the number or name of the standard you need, this should help you identify which organisation it comes from, and where to search for it.

We have access to a variety of standards in the library, such as:

  • British Standards Online (BSOL) – Provides access* to British Standards (BS), including those adopted from the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and Euronorms (EN). In addition, there is access to up to 25 direct ISO standards. (To download or print standards from BSOL you will need to first download a plugin.)
  • ASTM – Standards covering areas such as metals, paints, materials, energy, the environment and more.
  • IEEE – Standards for aerospace electronics, batteries, cybersecurity, power and energy and more.
  • SAE Aerospace and SAE Ground Vehicles – Standards for aviation and ground transportation safety and reliability.
  • StanMIS – Defence standards from the MoD and NATO.

Before using any standard, check the status – they are regularly reviewed and updated, so make sure you are using the latest current versions and not one which has been withdrawn or superseded.

You can find our standards on our Databases A-Z.


If you have any questions or problems accessing our resources, email us and we will help you.


Image by José Manuel de Laá from Pixabay

Katie Abranson

Written By: Karyn Meaden-Pratt

Katie is the Teaching and Learning Librarian for Aerospace and Transport taught courses.

Karyn is the Library Communications Manager and University Archivist.

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