(22 January 2014) - Reacting to recent announcements regarding future postgraduate engineering research funding, the Association of Engineering Doctorates (AEngD) is seeking an urgent meeting at UK ministerial level to secure funding for as many EngD centres as possible.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) announced, on 22 November 2013 and 9 January 2014, decisions about funding for Centres in Doctoral Training (CDTs). Analysis of the details reveals that, of the 91 centres announced to date, only 12 include provision for EngD research. Prior to these decisions, EngD centres made up around 40 per cent of the total. They now comprise 13 per cent, despite the demonstrable benefits of EngD programmes to date.

The EngD qualification was launched in 1992 and the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts MP said it was “ahead of its time” when he spoke at the AEngD launch conference marking 20 years of EngD achievement in London in November 2012. He applauded the EngD for applying intellectual advances to the world of industry, business and commerce and reiterated the Coalition's belief in “the importance of the engineer and the importance of the EngD”. His support was echoed by Dr Paul Golby, chairman of the EPSRC, at the same event.

The AEngD welcomed this support by the Government and the EPSRC, and believes this backing must be continued. It has therefore been seeking clarification of the current positions of both the EPSRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Following a 9 January 2014 emergency meeting of the AEngD steering committee, chairman Professor Patrick Godfrey, said:

“The UK broke new ground when it followed the recommendations of the Parnaby Report and launched the EngD in 1992. The rigorous approach to partnerships between academia and industry exemplified by the EngD is now being emulated by other EU states and in the USA, and is strongly supported by industry. To date, over 600 UK and international sponsor companies have supported EngD research in the UK. Moreover, firms such as Airbus UK, BAE Systems, GSK, Jaguar Land Rover, Procter & Gamble, Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel, have invested repeatedly in EngD research. Thousands of EngD research engineers have been based in industry and co-supervised by their sponsors, delivering innovations, new products and services, and adding value to UK plc.

“According to findings in a recent study by Manchester Business School, EngD research adds direct and early value for UK industry from the research undertaken, accelerates the 'time to market' of UK research, and delivers UK engineering leaders more rapidly. And the experience that EngD graduates receive allows them to become Chartered Engineers a full four years ahead of their PhD counterparts. We believe all of these benefits will help deliver the national industrial growth strategy and have a substantial national payback.”

The AEngD, which represents university-based industrial doctorate centres, industry sponsors, and both current and past EngD research engineers, is concerned about the future of the qualification.

On 16 January, AEngD representatives met with officials of the EPSRC, who remain strongly supportive of the EngD scheme. EPSRC chief executive Professor David Delpy said:

“I am delighted that EPSRC has been able to support 12 centres awarding EngDs as part of its portfolio of CDTs. We recognise the pivotal role that the EngD has played in transforming the doctoral landscape and believe that the EngD continues to be an excellent research and postgraduate training route for many engineering and science careers.”

Following the EPSRC meeting, the AEngD is now seeking a meeting as soon as is practicable with the Minister to present the industrial case for the EngD.

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Notes for editors

The Association of Engineering Doctorates established its steering group in 2010 and now encompasses almost all of the 28 current EPSRC-designated industrial doctorate centres at UK universities, with industry sponsors, existing EngD research engineers and alumni as associate members. A community engaged in research in engineering and related disciplines, it aims to:

The Engineering Doctorate (EngD) scheme was established by the EPSRC in 1992 (following recommendations of the 1990 Engineering Doctorate Report, produced by a working group chaired by Professor Parnaby).

The first EngD programmes began in 1992, and 28 schemes are currently offered by UK universities - either singly or as multi-institution academic partnerships.

Research interests embrace all major areas of engineering, manufacturing and related disciplines including: