The EngD: an engineering doctorate with a difference
If you're thinking of taking your engineering studies to postgraduate level but want an industrial edge to your research, consider the EngD. The engineering doctorate, to give it its full title, is a PhD-level qualification that combines applied industrial research with academic taught components in specialist technical, management and professional development subjects. This is why the EngD is frequently referred to as the 'PhD plus'.
The EngD qualification combines research and management training with industrial relevance. The programme has been around since 1992 when it was introduced by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with the aim of developing a new breed of engineers skilled in both technical research and management. The programme has gone from strength to strength and is now offered by 20 academic centres in the UK.
What does it involve?
The EngD is a four-year programme that, like its PhD relative, focuses on a research project and the production of a thesis (or portfolio). The difference from the PhD is that research engineers, as students on the EngD are called, spend 75 per cent of their time working within a sponsoring company and their project must make a significant contribution to the sponsor's business. Whatever the research engineer does must have commercial relevance as well as show innovation in the application of technical knowledge.
The engineering business moves at a swift pace so in reality research engineers can work on a series of related projects rather than one four-year project. The remaining 25 per cent of a research engineer's time is taken up with the academic components of the programme – typically MBA-level management and professional development courses and specialist technical courses related to the area of research.
Engineering researchers have both an academic and an industrial supervisor to provide support throughout the programme and make sure that they keep on track. Projects are defined jointly by the academic centres and the industrial sponsors to make sure they fit the bill. In keeping the fast-moving objectives of business you could work on a series of related projects.
Who can do it?
EngD programmes are open to graduates of high academic standard from numerate and technical degrees. They are pretty intense so in addition to academic ability, potential research engineers need to demonstrate that they have the self confidence, resilience and motivation needed to see it through. These qualities are essential for any engineer considering a doctorate-level qualification, but more so for those considering the EngD. Engineering researchers have to integrate quickly into the industrial environment and need to be able to balance business demands with those of the academic aspects of the programme. Applicants must also have good time management skills and be excellent communicators to accomplish the project management element of the programme.
How do you get on a programme?
In the first instance, you should explore the websites of the academic centres (you can find links on the EPSRC website). Each has its own application and selection processes. Potential research engineers are typically interviewed for the programme by both the academic centre and the sponsoring company to make sure that their skills are right for the particular project and that they will fit into the culture of their business. There is a real range of projects being offered through the academic centres, so it is important that you consider carefully what will be the right match for you.
How is it funded?
The EPSRC provides an 'enhanced' tax free stipend for up to four years – for 2006/7 this was £13,800 per year. In addition, the industrial sponsor provides a minimum top up of £3,000, which is also tax free. Industrial studentships are available for research engineers already working within the industrial sponsor company. Note that, international students are not eligible for EPSRC funding.
What are the benefits?
Employers value graduates from the EngD programme for many reasons. The formal management training received by the research engineers is significant, but time and time again, employers comment that engineers coming from the EngD rather than a PhD are often better able to hit the ground running when they join the business. They have a better appreciation of how research and development works in an industrial context. Overall, the EngD programme is producing engineers who are adaptable and have the project management skills and commercial nous to make a contribution from the outset.
Want to know more?
If the EngD interests you visit the EPSRC's website at www.epsrc.ac.uk to find out more. There is up-to-date information on how the EngD is funded and a list of all the academic centres offering programmes with click throughs to their websites.