A look at some new courses on offer


Each year, a variety of new third-level courses are offered by colleges around the country. Students may be reluctant to list these courses as there is no track record and no graduates. Researching these courses requires some work on the part of students. This can be good news for those daring spirits who are willing to experiment, as the cut-off points may be lower than in the years to come.

Today and tomorrow, College Choice looks at a number of the new courses on offer. This column concentrates on new offerings in the engineering, computing and science areas.

DCU's four new engineering degrees: This year, DCU has four new engineering offerings with a total of 95 first-year places - computer-aided mechanical and manufacturing engineering (30 first-year places); manufacturing engineering with business studies (20 first-year places); medical mechanical engineering (20 firstyear places); medical and manufacturing engineering (undenominated entry (25 first-year places)

All of the students on these four courses do a common first year. Most first-year engineering programmes have a lot of commonality, lecturer Dr Lisa Looney says, and include subjects such as maths, applied maths, drawing, mechanics, electronics and computing. The idea is to bring students, who may have done different subjects at Leaving Certificate, to a similar level.

At the end of first year, students who entered via the undenominated route choose between the three options. As far as possible, they will be facilitated in this choice, Dr Looney says.

Students in the computer-aided mechanical and manufacturing engineering stream will do a course which is "very similar to traditional mechanical engineering but which has a huge emphasis on using computer-based tools". In fourth year, they can specialise further, taking computer-aided design, automated manufacturing or software development. This latter choice is unique, says Dr Looney: a lot of software companies are recruiting scientists and engineers and teaching them software skills. This course addresses this gap.

In the medical mechanical engineering course, engineering students will unusually find themselves involved with the biological sciences, studying subjects such as anatomy, biochemistry, and biokinetics. They also continue with their study of materials and mechanics. The course is aimed at students who want to design mechanical items used in medicine - for instance, in surgery and rehabilitation, designing implants or replacement arms and legs for amputees.

In third and fourth year, students take a number of specialised modules. These include prosthetics and orthotics, physiotherapy and rehabilitation engineering as well as minimal invasive surgical device technology. Design engineers also need a high level of familiarity with regulations, Dr Looney says.

The manufacturing engineering course is run jointly with the school of business studies. In second year, students begin a range of business subjects such as economics, marketing, accounting and management as well as continuing with the study of manufacturing systems and technology. They also take French or German. In third year, they study law, and continue with the language and manufacturing while, in the final year, students can take enterprise studies or strategic management with financial management as well as manufacturing processes.

All of the courses include a sixmonth work placement in third year. These courses evolved in response to the skills shortages but they have a strong academic basis, emphasises Dr Looney.

Engineering in automation at Sligo IT: The Admissions officer, Mr Padraic Cuffe, says this two-year national certificate in engineering in automation combines mechanical engineering with electronics. This type of course is also called mechatronics.

In first year, 12 subjects are covered, including computer studies, analogue and digital electronics, engineering drawing (mechanical and electrical) as well as machine construction and mechanics. In second year, subjects include analogue electronics, data communications, maths, microcomputer control and personal development. Students are also required to undertake a project which will require the design, planning and production of a prototype.

Students can progress from the two-year national certificate to a one-year diploma in industrial automation to a two-year Bachelor of Engineering in product design - subject to their exam results. Graduates of the certificate or diploma should have little problem finding work as manufacturing industry is one of the areas identified by the IDA as having skills shortages, Mr Cuffe says.


UL is not offering the denominated degree in biomedical engineering listed in the CAO handbook but first-year mechanical engineering students will be offered a biomedical engineering elective. This will give them the chance of going on to do a biomedical engineering option in third year within the mechanical engineering degree programme.

In this elective they will study the basic physiology sciences, says Dr Tim McGloughlin, lecturer in UL's department of mechanical and aeronautical engineering. "The industry is growing at quite a staggering rate," he explains. There are 12,500 employees in the medical device sector alone in Ireland, he adds.

"A significant percentage of those employees would be graduates. In recent years the IDA has been encouraging those companies to set up research and development and product development facilities at their Irish locations to ensure that they have deeper roots in the Irish economy."

Physiotherapy at RCSI Physiotherapy has traditionally been offered by UCD and TCD only and is a highly popular option with school leavers. This year, up to five places will be offered to Irish students on the new physiotherapy course at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Prof Marie Guidan, course director, says the course will have an overall intake of 24. It's a four-year programme for those entering with school-leaving qualifications. Graduates with a primary science degree will be considered for a three-year programme on direct application to the admissions office.

Prof Guidan says the course is very similar to the courses on offer at UCD and TCD and she expects the cut-off points to be in the same region. Software development and computer networking at Cork IT In its second year, this course has two main aims. Mr Aidan McDonald, course co-ordinator, says it will produce a graduate who can develop applications using programming languages. That person will also have an in-depth understanding of computer networking and telecommunications.

"We have been aware of the fact that a lot of companies are developing software for the telecommunications industry . . . we believe that the market will expand. We're producing graduates with these skills, and we believe industry will take these graduates in preference to others. They will not be in competition with the vast bulk of computing graduates. It's a niche market."

Software systems at NCI The National College of Ireland (formerly the National College of Industrial Relations) is offering a new four-year degree in software systems. This will include a six-month work placement in third year.

Course director Dr Gerry Grenham explains that students will attend lectures in a studio-classroom environment. The traditional blackboard will be replaced by networked PCs and a large screen. "It's a new way of doing things. It will be very dynamic and visual," he says.

"It combines the features of the classic lecture, tutorial and computer laboratory and emphasises a show-and-do approach to imparting knowledge to students."

This model is also used by students attending NCI's new two-year national certificate in computing (applications and support) programme which started this year. Engineering at NUI Galway

NUI Galway's management engineering with a language and biomedical engineering are new to the CAO handbook but did have a first-year intake last year. Prof Jim Browne, dean of engineering, explains that management engineers are concerned with the planning, control and evaluation of work programmes and business processes. Job opportunities exist in the services and manufacturing industry.

The biomedical engineering programme is geared towards the needs of the health care and medical devices companies which are clustered in the west of Ireland.

Additional reporting by Catherine Foley

Helpline: Students, parent and teachers with queries about colleges, courses and application procedures are invited to call the College Choice helpline between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. today. Tel: (01) 679 2099