Some of the best known tech companies in the State have teamed up with the University of Limerick (UL) for a new and radically different computer science course.
More than a dozen tech companies, including Stripe, Intercom and Workday, are partnering with the university for its new immersive software engineering programme. It seeks to meet global demand for developers, in part through the provision of residencies, something more commonly associated with those studying medicine.
Companies working in drone delivery, voice tech and accident prevention technology have helped the university develop the course, which it is hoped will make the Republic one of the leading educational hubs for computer science.
The other companies backing the course are Analog Devices, Aer Lingus, Fenergo, First Derivatives, Manna Aero, MongoDB, Personio, Provizio, Shopify, Shutterstock, Soapbox Labs, Viotas, Watershed and Zalando.
It also has the support of State agencies IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, as well as tech-focused venture capital firm Frontline Ventures.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Stephen Kinsella associate professor of economics at the University of Limerick, stressed that the residencies were much more than just glorified internships. He said that, just as trainee doctors go on residencies to apply skills they've learned in the classroom to the real world, so will UL students, who he said will be working with some of the most exciting tech companies globally.
During the four-year course, students will complete five paid residencies of three to six months. Students will be part of professional teams working to improve access to financial services around the world, fighting the climate crisis and building next-generation instrumentation for healthcare.
“Students will be on paid residencies for half of their time on the course and will be expected to fully contribute to the companies they are being placed with,” said Mr Kinsella, co-director of the immersive software engineering course.
He said the university’s aim was to introduce a disruptive computer science programme that goes beyond what is offered anywhere in the world.
“We have benchmarked ourselves against what are considered the best computer science programmes in the world, which are those provided by University of Waterloo, Toronto and University of Twente in the Netherlands. We’ve actually gone substantially beyond what they do by introducing a Master’s degree that can be completed in under four years, which offers residencies and does away with the traditional lecture format,” he said.
“We’re going to be teaching students in studios that are similar in format to that used with architects and artists. Students also won’t be doing regular coursework, end-of-term exams or lectures. It’s a very different instructional mode that we’re pioneering called a block concept that gives us maximum flexibility and allows us to focus in depth on different topics,” Mr Kinsella said.
He also said UL was keen to attract high-performing students who might not consider studying computer science, a view echoed by John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe.
“Software engineers enjoy incredible careers solving some of the world’s most important problems in the fastest growing industries, yet we have nowhere near enough of them. Immersive software engineering seeks to provide a great path for more secondary students – especially girls – into technology,” said Mr Collison.
The first cohort of students to undertake the new programme starts in September 2022.