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Key features of UK EngDs

During 2014 and 2015, several reviews and reports brought into focus the nature of the EngD and its importance to the future of UK plc. This AEngD has summarised the various documents and developments, and produced an outline of the key features of UK EngDs (download: Summary of Key EngD Features).

A report for the Association of Engineering Doctorates, drafted by an AEngD Action Group

November 2015

Introduction

The Engineering Doctorate (EngD) is a UK postgraduate award promoted by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with the first EngD programme commencing in 1992. EngD programmes are now delivered and awarded at more than 20 universities across the UK. It is generally agreed that an EngD is akin to an industrially focused engineering or physical science PhD with an additional taught component.

During 2014 and 2015, several reviews and reports brought into focus the nature of the EngD and its importance to the future of UK plc.

This web page summarises the various documents and provides links to the original source material so that a common repository of developments is created.

1. QAA Doctoral Degree Characteristics Statement

The QAA’s Characteristics Statement (September 2015) describes distinctive features of the doctorate in the UK and has become a reference point for the purposes of reviews coordinated by QAA from August 2016.

The AEngD welcomed earlier consultation on the Qualification Characteristics Statements, and submitted a response in March 2015 (PDF; news release). The timing was particularly valuable given the AEngD’s input to the Dowling Review (see below), but the AEngD was disappointed to see that the QAA placed the EngD among 'professional doctorates'.

2. The Dowling Report

In January 2015, the President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dame Ann Dowling DBE FREng FRS, was invited by the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, to lead a review examining how Government can support the development of more effective collaborations between businesses and university researchers in the UK (RAEng announcement).

In its submission (PDF; news release) to the review, the AEngD highlighted that

the EngD constitutes a form of academia-industry collaboration that not only generates new knowledge, but also enhances knowledge exchange between industry / business and academia. EngD programmes enhance human capital development by delivering post-graduates with leadership, management, and advanced technical skills, focused on the needs of industry.

3. Understanding the EngD Impact – A Pilot study

In September 2015, a study undertaken by Dr Fumi Kitagawa (formerly of University of Manchester Business School, now of Univerity of Edinburgh Business School), on behalf of the AEngD and EPSRC was published on the AEngD website (PDF; news release).

Key findings of the benefits for industry:

For the Research Engineer: An EngD qualification is likely to contribute to the demonstration of the required standard of competence and commitment for the award of Chartered Engineer (CEng) status. An EngD that is accredited by the engineering profession will make the assessment process for the award of CEng status more straightforward.

 

Towards a formal standard for UK EngDs: A review of current practices.

Given changes emerging in the industrially focussed doctoral landscape, there is a risk that substantive variety in the requirements for an EngD award and the Research Engineer experience could be introduced and the benefits above could be diluted.

Therefore, a piece of work was conducted by a sub-group of the AEngD to work towards a formal standard for UK EngDs and to review current practices. The report also proposes a common model for Engineering Doctorate programmes and awards.

By identifying variations and similarities in what an EngD comprises we can begin to move towards developing and adopting a generic EngD model. This, in turn, would offer sponsors a new form of creditability and distinction and enhance the EngD brand.

The analysis presented indicated that, as might be expected, independent higher education institutions interpret the operational requirements of an EngD Programme in slightly different ways. Whilst the degree of variation is relatively small, it is of sufficient extent to merit some corrective action. The new models of industrially focused PhD which have emerged in recent years add urgency to this case. Other work has highlighted that the spirit of the EngD qualification is attractive to industry, to potential Research Engineers who apply for research posts, and to the alumni now working in their respective fields.

The strategic importance of the higher education community working with industry to encourage highly qualified engineering leaders of the future remains vital and a common model for Research Engineer experience and achievement can only underpin the credibility and quality of the award.

 

Conclusion

It is the aim of the AEngD to continue to work with QAA and towards a position whereby reference to Engineering Doctorate is removed from the Professional and practice-based (or practitioner) doctorates sub-heading because the QAA’s ‘professional doctorate’ typology does not reflect several distinctive features of the EngD that influence the student experience and outcomes.

These features include:

The AEngD proposes that the EngD, as a form of doctoral programme and qualification, fully complies with and sits more appropriately within the existing Integrated Doctorate characteristics, albeit that the EngD has a separate strong brand and name, recognised by industry in the UK and internationally.

Alternatively, and in time, the Association would support creation of an ‘industrial doctorate’ category and would like to actively join a debate and working party to discuss progress in this area.

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