Limerick: Software engineering moves out of the lecture hall and gets straight down to business

UL’s new Immersive Software Engineering programme is the result of a collaboration between the university and cutting-edge tech companies to give students experience of real world environments

Brothers Patrick and John Collison, founders of Stripe, will work with University of Limerick on the new programme

University of Limerick (UL) is strengthening its position as a leader in progressive third level education globally with the launch of a pioneering new programme set to redefine the future of computer science education.

UL’s new Immersive Software Engineering (ISE) programme will get its first intake of students in September 2022, following more than two years in development and partnerships already in place with 40 leading tech companies in Ireland and overseas.

In response to the very real and immediate need for developer talent in the tech sector, the university has partnered with a host of cutting-edge companies to take computer science education out of the lecture hall and into collaborative studio and real world environments.

Among the companies working alongside UL on the new programme are Provizio, Transact Campus Inc, Analog Devices, Zalando, Intercom, Shopify, Manna Aero and Stripe, the highly successful tech venture founded in 2010 by Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison.

Stripe became the most valuable private company in Silicon Valley earlier this year, following a bumper fundraising round, which valued the company at a staggering $96 billion.

Commenting on its involvement in UL’s new ISE programme, Stripe’s co-founder and president John Collison said it would play an important role in helping to solve the ongoing shortage of skilled developers in the software sector globally.

“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,” Collison said.

“Immersive Software Engineering seeks to provide a great path for more secondary students – especially girls – into technology.”

Partnering with companies, such as Stripe, ISE will offer students at both undergraduate and master’s degree level, a series of immersive residencies with partner companies.

Over the course of the four-year programme, students will complete five paid residencies, each with a duration of between three and six months. Students will do these residencies across multiple companies.

They will be part of real, professional teams, solving problems, such as improving access to financial services around the world, fighting the climate crisis, and building next generation instrumentation for healthcare.

Stephen Kinsella, associate professor of economics at UL’s Kemmy Business School Photo by Arthur Ellis

“Residencies are more common to medical degrees. Just as trainee doctors apply skills they have studied in a classroom to the real world, so too will ISE students – and they’ll be doing it inside some of the world’s most exciting tech companies,” Stephen Kinsella, associate professor of economics at the UL’s Kemmy Business School, said.

“That’s the real innovation in this course. Our students will be taking part in projects at UL sponsored or initiated by our partner companies.

“They will be taking part in projects within our partner companies that actually meet some of the learning outcomes of the course.

“When they go out to do their residencies they will then bring that learning back to their fellow students.”

“This idea of having a really deep ongoing shared dialogue with these leading companies is incredibly important,” Kinsella said.

“It will generate new ideas in a completely new way. By the time they have completed the course, our students will have experienced multiple projects and world-leading practice in real-world environments. They will come out of it with incredible experience.”

Kinsella is co-director of the new ISE programme and one of a team of three at UL who have been working with industry representatives since early 2019 to bring the project to fruition.

This team also includes Tiziana Margaria, ISE course director and chair of software systems at UL’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, and JJ Collins, who lectures in Software Design and Architecture at UL.

“ISE is a completely new way of teaching software engineering. It is an immersive, intensive and very ambitious course,” Margaria said.

“In contrast to other existing third level courses in this area, ISE won’t have modules running in parallel.

“Instead, we will have learning ‘blocks’ centred around a number of subjects, all completely integrated with each other.

“Instead of sitting in classrooms, students will work in a studio-based fashion – in teams, on different projects and challenges. Learning will be centred on discovery. It is all very new, and very exciting.”

In addition to its industry partners, ISE will collaborate with Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, and Frontline Ventures, the VC firm based in Dublin and London.

“We want this course to change the way Ireland’s highest-performing students think about computer science as a career option,” Kinsella said.

“We want to bring a more diverse audience to computer science – and we want ISE graduates to be the premier computer science talent around the world. We’re really excited to be able to work with so many great partners to bring this vision to life.”