Abstract A literature survey has revealed that current rock anchor design methods have been empirically derived and are conservative in nature. The design stability of a rock anchor depends on an assumed yield surface which in practice is difficult to predict. Additionally, rock parameters such as shear stress at the yield surface are commonly ignored. In the fixed anchor design, although both theoretical and experimental evidence indicates bond distribution to be nonlinear at the tendon/grout/rock interfaces, current design still assumes the bond to be uniformly distributed. To provide a more fundamental approach to rock anchor design a simple isoparametric finite element (FE) program has been developed. The stress-strain pattern in the fixed anchor zone has been obtained for a rock/grout modular ratio of 1:2 and the results obtained are compared with those derived experimentally. The results show the most severe position of shearing to be at the rock/grout interface and that partial debonding is not a serious problem. Having shown that the FE method can be used to successfully predict rock anchor behaviour, the authors recommend further refinement of the numerical solution. The need for further experimental research work to investigate the load transfer mechanism in a wide range of rock types to obtain full validation of the approach is stressed, as is the dependence of the solution on accurate determination of the properties of the host rock.