What is Rethinking Engineering Education in Ireland?

Rethinking Engineering Education in Ireland (REEdI) is a collaboration between university and industry, with the intent of developing workplace experienced graduates.

The objective of the programme is to develop a diverse engineering pedagogical framework, that future-proofs engineering graduates, while addressing the ever-changing needs of industry. REEdI is funded through the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 3 Initiative.

REEdI is a consortium of national and international HEI’s, industry stakeholders and world class research centres. The project will produce a new way of designing, developing and delivering engineering education in Ireland. This approach is necessary to support the continuously changing and evolving jobs market to produce engineers of the future. 

“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist … using technologies that haven’t been invented … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” — Richard Riley, former secretary of education

The REEdI project is structured as a blended degree, with a duration of four years equally divided between time spent in an academic setting and time spent in industry.

The student engineer will spend the first two years on campus and the final two years at a host industry partner gaining the essential industry skills and personal attributes an employer looks for in a graduate engineer.

The three-way relationship between student, university and industry is core to the approach on which the programme is designed. The REEdI framework is initially being utilised in the development of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

The project offers an agile and innovative learning programme, providing personalised, flexible and tailored options to diverse learner cohorts; from school leavers to graduating apprentices, to upskilling industry professionals and mature students.

Building on the success of world-leading, cutting-edge models of engineering pedagogy, REEdI combines an innovative method of content delivery with new immersive technologies to deliver a transformative programme of self-directed and self-scheduled learning for the next generation of engineers.

Learners will navigate an online dynamic learning map and complete subject paths, in their own time, at their own location, choosing material to suit their individual and unique needs.

REEdI team and partners

The REEdI project team is a cross-functional cohort comprised of experienced academic staff, engineering fellows, student engagement officer, learning experience designers, VR and AR experts and experienced marketing and website developers – all with significant industry experience.

Choosing a team with significant recent industry experience is key to delivering a programme structure and curriculum that is relevant to, and meets the needs of, industry.

A differentiating factor of the REEdI programme is the role of the engineering fellow. A significant part of the role of the engineering fellows is industry engagement to create and develop the link between industry and academia.

The engineering fellow will coordinate the work placement and support the host industry partner and student engineer through the work-placement process.

Munster Technological University is the lead university of the REEdI project, with University of Limerick, Harper Adams and Charles Sturt University as the academic partners. Charles Sturt are global leaders in the model of self-directed, project-centric learning with significant work placement.

The research centre partners are, SFI CONFIRM Smart manufacturing, SFI LERO Software development centre, IMAR Research Centre and AgriTech Centre of Excellence (ACE).

The project has been developed in collaboration with industry partners across various disciplines such as pharmaceutical, medical devices, automotive, electronic, advanced manufacturing and agricultural technology.

The industry partners participated in workshops and surveys, the output of which resulted in the collaborative development of the curriculum and work placement framework.

Why BE (Hons) in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering was chosen as initial programme

The Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering has been chosen as the first programme to be developed utilising the REEdI framework.

Extensive research was completed to understand the areas where there the greatest shortage of talent and graduates existed. Industry surveys were conducted to build a picture of what skills and experience are absent in graduate engineers.

This collated data and further collaboration with industry partners informed the selection of the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering as the pilot programme to showcase the REEdI framework.

The curriculum developed for this programme will ensure the delivery of a well-rounded engineering graduate with the technical skills, soft skills and transversal skills needed to be a successful engineer.

Engineering graduates of the programme will have the knowledge, experience and skilset to work across a diversity of manufacturing sectors, to address the shortage of engineering talent and continuously improve and solve complex engineering problems.

“I don’t spend my time pontificating about high-concept things; I spend my time solving engineering and manufacturing problems.” — Elon Musk

The Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering aligns with the Higher Education System Objectives (HESO) 2018-2020 and HCI objectives including:

  • Enhancing skills and developing talent in areas of need for enterprise;
  • Transitioning to a low-carbon economy;
  • Training in emerging technologies, specifically for AR/VR, smart manufacturing, IoT, AI, Industry 4.0;
  • Education and training programmes that are responsive to the changing and diverse needs of our people, society, and economy;
  • Embedding transversal skills into programmes, enabling student directed, project centric and dual learning;
  • Enterprise engagement, increased industry collaboration and input into programme design, development, and continuous improvement;
  • Collaboration and strong consortium with international leaders in work-based placement models, engineering education innovation and research innovation in smart manufacturing.

Method of delivery and technologies developed 

While the first two years of the programme will be based on the MTU campus, the students will be trained in the use of AR/VR technology in preparation for the two-year work placement at the host industry partner.

As the course progresses, the student will get the opportunity to use immersive technology for practical laboratories and selected modules will be delivered utilising immersive technology.

Additionally, the students will learn both synchronously and asynchronously as required using an MTU approved LXP. This type of platform is also utilised to provide formative assessment to students. Immersive technologies such as e-learning and VR/AR are transforming how we teach and these disruptive technologies are transforming methods of content delivery in academia.

Applying these technologies to cutting-edge engineering pedagogy has the potential to impact and transform engineering in Ireland across the higher education sector.

The manufacturing sector in this country requires engineers that are educated using a flexible, industry-directed and self-directed methodology that is innovative and agile. This demands a holistic and transdisciplinary approach.

This is vital for the development of future-oriented, sustainable and socially responsible engineers who can produce technical solutions and innovations with societal and economic added value for Ireland.

Course schedule and future plans

The first intake of students will be in September 2022, and they will enter work placement in September 2024.

See www.reedi.ie for details.