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PhD AND MPhil programme
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Introduction and objectives

mature student working at a laptopEngaging in a PhD programme in Engineering Education implies a transition from the relatively narrow perspective of the disciplinary specialisation of engineering to the broader, multidisciplinary perspectives and practices of engineering education scholarship. The successful negotiation of this transition tends to be a transformative development pro­cess. This programme is designed to facilitate such developmental processes based on principles such as experiential learning. The University of Cape Town, in collaboration with Virginia Tech in the USA, the University of Johannesburg and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is now offering a structured PhD program in Engineering Education in South Africa.

Who should attend?

This programme is open to anyone who wishes to pursue studies in the field of engineering education but will be of particular benefit to those who are currently involved with the education of engineers or will be in the near future. Typically, those applying for the PhD programme would be academic staff members who want to advance their studies. However, PhD candidates who are employed as lecturers struggle to find the time to engage in quality research while managing heavy teaching and administrative loads. In addi­tion, lecturers with their first qualification in engi­neering or science face the challenge of moving from their disciplinary specialisation into education research. This structured PhD program in Engineering Education addresses these challenges.


The programme includes course work consisting of three block release modules. These blocks each consist of a full-time contact week (Mon–Sat) sched­uled to fit into the academic year to favour full-time attendance. In addition to these sessions, candi­dates will be required to undertake assignments and case studies both individually and in groups.


Course 1: Knowledge and Practices in Engineering Education

Course 2: Theoretical Foundations in Engineering Education

Course 3: Methodologies in Engineering Education

YEAR 2–4

Proposal development and research towards PhD, including a visit to Virginia Tech for qualifying candidates


Course 1: Knowledge and Practices in Engineering Education

This course intends to provide postgraduate students with an introduction to conceptual frameworks in teaching and learning as appropriate to engineering education. The aim is to furnish the student with the conceptual tools to enable a critical approach to engineering knowledge and to enable reflection on higher education practice.

To be successful in this course, students will be able to:

  • apply theoretical frameworks to engineering education practice;
  • reflect critically on own practices with reference to theoretical frameworks;
  • identify and describe the principles behind curriculum design decisions;
  • understand the different forms of knowledge on which effective engineering educators draw.

Course 2: Methodologies in Engineering Education

This course aims to provide the student with an introduction to methodologies appropriate for research and scholarly work in engineering education. In this course students will engage with philosophy for understanding the world of engineering education, methodologies that can be applied to problems in engineering education, and methods and techniques for engaging with those problems in order to understand, critique, explain and possibly intervene to address them.

To be successful in this course, students will be able to:

  • understand selected methodological approaches in engineering education;
  • understand the philosophical underpinnings of selected methodologies;
  • critically evaluate methodological choices;
  • select appropriate methods and techniques that are aligned with selected methodologies;
  • understand the ethical implications of methodological choices.

Course 3: Theoretical Foundation in Engineering Education Research

This course intends to provides postgraduate students with an introduction to substantive theories that address key educational concepts. These broad concepts will revolve around the notions of: identity; discourse; knowledge; student experience; social structure.

To be successful in this course, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of key theoretical concepts for framing engineering education in the higher education context;
  • evaluate the utility of theories introduced to describe and explain engineering education phenomena;
  • critically evaluate engineering education research literature (from a theoretical perspective);
  • construct a theoretical argument.