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UL software course offers work with tech giants from 1st year

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Experience: The Collison brothers' Stripe is offering students placements as part of the UL course. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Experience: The Collison brothers' Stripe is offering students placements as part of the UL course. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Experience: The Collison brothers' Stripe is offering students placements as part of the UL course. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

An Immersive Software Engineering (ISE) course at the University of Limerick will see students spend 45pc of their time on paid work placements in companies including the Collison brothers’ Stripe, Facebook and drone delivery pioneer Manna Aero.

The programme will be open to students from September 2022 and has been designed following extensive consultation with industry. It aims to address the sector’s concerns about the shortage of software engineers here while offering students high-level work experience as part of real teams in companies and an accelerated route to a master’s qualification over four years.

The course will run for 40 weeks per year over four years including including five on-site placements or ‘residencies’ in industry.

John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe, said 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”.

Professor Tiziana Margaria, chair of Software Systems and head of the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems at UL said the course aims to attract a more diverse intake of students than traditionally seen in IT programmes, including more female students and candidates usually drawn to prestige degrees like medicine and pharmacy.

Students’ ability to earn while they learn is usually associated with vocational apprenticeship, but the ISE’s integrated undergraduate and master’s course will include all of the theoretical work of a traditional degree as well as on-the-job learning, she said.

UL is launching the programme in partnership with over a dozen companies from Ireland and around the world, including Analog Devices, Stripe, Zalando, Intercom, Shopify, Manna Aero, and Facebook.

The heavy influence of a fairly narrow segment of tech sector employers on the course is likely to attract some criticism. UL’s ISE partners include some of the country’s most sought-after employers but the sector has also faced criticism over so-called ‘tech bro’ working culture that can make it unwelcoming of women, and amid ethical concerns around the effects of the growth-at-all-costs ethos in the wider global tech industry.

Prof Margaria said the greater part of student time will still be spent on campus and with a full exposure to broader theoretical education as well as application of software in government and not-for-profit sectors.

Unlike internships, the three-month and six-month residencies will constitute part of students’ graded course work with supervision from teaching staff throughout even while working on real projects in teams and with mentors from their companies. Students will be placed in companies in pairs, she said.

UL’s Prof Stephen Kinsella, co-director of the programme said one aim of the course was to change the way Ireland’s highest-performing students think about computer science as a career option.

Three-quarters of tech companies in Ireland saying the shortage of tech skills is losing them money.

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