Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, has partnered with University of Limerick to deliver the world’s first Principal Engineer Doctoral Apprenticeship. The Professional Doctorate in Engineering (DEng) is also Ireland’s first qualification at level 10 funded through the national apprenticeships programme.

Unlike the majority of apprenticeships, the Principal Engineer Doctoral apprenticeship is aimed at existing staff with experience of solving problems and delivering innovative solutions. For employers, this programme provides an opportunity for existing staff with expertise in key areas to earn a doctoral qualification in the workplace without going back to university full time. Staff recognition, loyalty and retention are enhanced through the process.

The UL programme is currently recruiting and offers experienced engineers a way of gaining a doctorate by utilising the innovative and creative skills they already use in their day-to-day roles.  Participation is 90% funded under the SOLAS Generation Apprenticeship scheme.

Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software, said: “Practitioners in the Irish software industry are often very advanced and to the forefront in implementing innovation in their companies nationally and globally. In many cases, this practice is capable of contributing to the state-of-the-art to such an extent that a Doctorate could be awarded.”

“The traditional PhD, which is more academic focused and intended to produce researchers and academics, is not as suitable a path for industry-based candidates. Often these entry requirements of a 2.1 honours degree is not something that was available to all practitioners who may have less academic qualification but have more than made up for it in professional expertise. As a result, we created the PDEng programme which allows credit for this learning and is a very appropriate path to a Doctorate that is far more relevant to today’s environment of continuous professional development.”

The aim of a Professional Doctorate programme is to provide a qualification which, whilst being equivalent in status and challenge to a PhD, is more appropriate for those pursuing professional rather than academic careers. The DEng acknowledges that significant research takes place within the practitioner’s workplace. Candidates are required to make a contribution to both theory and practice in their field, and to develop professional practice by making a contribution to (professional) knowledge.

Candidates who wish to enter the programme must first pass attend a Qualifier Module, which is currently open for applications and begins in mid-January 2021. As part of this module, candidates are required to submit a mini-thesis outlining their proposed research areas.

Candidates’ host organisations must also go through a vetting process that ensures that they have the scope of work required for the candidates to success in their studies and they are prepared to support the candidate through provision of an in-company mentor. Successful candidates and their host organisations are then invited to join the programme.

The Principal Engineer Apprenticeship is a four-year blended doctoral programme, which means the research is directly related to activities in the company, focused on developing practice based knowledge and will bring academic rigour to product and process development projects.

For further information about the Principal Engineer Doctoral Apprenticeship Programme (linked to brochure) email apprenticeships@ul.ie or apply for the Qualifier Module here.