Postgraduate engineering options: what is the EngD?

Postgraduate engineering options – what is the EngD?

While academic PhDs have been available to engineers for many years, the specific engineering doctorate under the wing of the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), known as EngD, has only been in existence since 1992. The course is four years long, during which students will combine study with work for a sponsor company.

Minimum requirements for an EngD tend to be a 2.1 honours degree. Having said that, some institutions will accept candidates with a 2.2 provided they have considerable industrial experience and a related postgraduate degree.

Industrial Doctorate Centres

The course is conducted by one of 27 EPSRC-funded Industrial Doctorate Centres (IDCs). These IDCs arose from the 2009 expansion of the previous EngD scheme – to cover the full remit of the EPSRC and support new areas of study. Many IDCs have input from more than one university, and some institutions are home to more than one IDC.

IDCs include:

  • Association of Engineering Doctorates (AEngD)
  • Biopharmaceutical Process Development (Newcastle University)
  • Bioprocess Engineering Leadership (Department of BioChemical Engineering, UCL)
  • Centre for Digital Entertainment (Universities of Bath and Bournemouth)
  • Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering (CICE) (Loughborough University)
  • Efficient Fossil Energy Technologies (Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Loughborough University)
  • Formulation Engineering (University of Birmingham)
  • Large Scale Complex IT Systems (Universities of Leeds, Oxford, St. Andrews and York)
  • Micro and Nano-Materials and Technologies (University of Surrey)
  • Molecular Modelling and Materials Science (UCL)
  • Nuclear Engineering (Imperial College London, University of Manchester)
  • Optics and Photonics Technologies (Heriot-Watt, Glasgow, St. Andrews, Strathclyde and the Scottish University Physics Alliance)
  • STREAM (focusing on the water sector) (Cranfield University, Imperial College London, University of Exeter, University of Sheffield, Newcastle University)
  • Sustainability for Engineering and Energy Systems (University of Surrey)
  • Systems (Universities of Bristol and Bath)
  • Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science (University of Oxford)
  • Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments (University of Reading)
  • Transport and the Environment (University of Southampton)
  • Urban Sustainability and Resilience (UCL)
  • Visual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation (UCL)

Seven of these IDCs have been funded by the EPSRC since 2002, adding to the initial list above:

  • Centre for Doctoral Training in Non-Destructive Evaluation (Imperial College London, Universities of Bristol, Nottingham, Strathclyde and Warwick – with the IDC based at Imperial)
  • Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) in Structural Metallic Systems for Gas Turbine Applications (Universities of Cambridge, Swansea and Birmingham)
  • Engineering Doctoral Centre in High-Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing (University of Warwick)
  • Industrial Doctorate Centre in Advanced Forming and Manufacture (University of Strathclyde)
  • Industrial Doctorate Centre in Machining Science (University of Sheffield)
  • Manufacturing Advances Through Training Engineering Researchers (MATTER) (Swansea Univesity)
  • Manufacturing Technology Engineering and Doctorate Centre (MTEDC) (Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and the Loughborough University)

Most EngD courses open at the start of an academic year in October. Candidates are therefore normally required to apply the preceding April or May.

Content of an EngD

An EngD focuses on commercially relevant research: typically a project that presents a research challenge while simultaneously solving a genuine problem faced by the industrial sponsor. EngD students spend 75 per cent of their time working at the employer site with a supervisor from within the organisation. The remaining time is spent at the university studying specialist technical and professional development subjects to prepare the ‘research engineer' for industry management roles.

In comparison to a straight PhD, an EngD tends to focus more on the ‘business’ aspects of engineering – so not purely academic study, but the practicalities of using studies in a commercial context. For example, an EngD typically teaches engineers about the wider considerations of projects, such as time-scales, cost and staffing.

In addition to lecturing and seminars, work will be assessed via a research thesis. Some courses also require the submission of a portfolio of work throughout the year that demonstrates both managerial capabilities and engineering knowledge.

Funding

While academic study is still highly valued by employers, the additional commercial elements of an EngD often appeal to employers. Furthermore, it has been the case in the past that EngDs have received higher minimum funding levels than PhDs. Funding typically arises in one of two different ways.

  1. The student is employed by the industrial sponsor. In addition to their salary, arrangements can be made with their employer to fund all, or part, of the EngD course.
  2. The student is not currently employed. To study for an EngD, the EPSRC then offers sponsorship of £13,838 per annum (tax free), with an additional top-up (also tax free) from the company sponsoring the student. The top-up fee can be anywhere between a minimum of £3,000 to a maximum of £13,838.

Only students who are UK nationals are eligible for EPSRC funding.