Brief History of the School of Engineering

In 1838 a Select Committee of the House of Commons produced a report on Education in Ireland. Amongst its recommendations was the setting up of four non-denominational colleges, one in each province (the Queen's Colleges), and professional colleges for surveying and engineering. The response of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) was to establish a School of Engineering in 1841 under the direction of Humphrey Lloyd (1800-1881), then Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Natural & Experimental Philosophy, and later Provost.

With an initial focus on structural and hydraulic engineering, successful completion of the two-year course led to the award of a Diploma in Civil Engineering. The course was extended in 1845 to three years and in 1860 the Licence in Civil Engineering (LCE) was instituted. The BAI (Baccalaureus in Arte Ingenaria) was introduced in 1872 to replace the Licence and was conditional on the award of the associated ordinary BA degree, a practice which is maintained to this day. The numbers of students attending the early years of the Diploma and Licence courses were generally small. From the introduction of the BAI degree, the numbers in the School rose slowly over the years to reach around 100 by 1958 with graduating classes never exceeding forty.

The three-year engineering course continued until 1956 when it was extended to four years. The model then was such that students followed a common programme for three years with options relevant to civil, mechanical, electrical and computer engineering being chosen in the fourth year.

In 1979, under a revised national industrial development policy, the government established a National Manpower Programme and requested the third level colleges to increase significantly the numbers of students graduating in the technologies. Major funding was made available to facilitate this. The principal areas for development were microelectronics, manufacturing engineering and computer science. In Trinity significant additional space was provided for engineering and staff numbers grew allowing for the establishment in 1980 of the present departmental structures. Student numbers also increased progressively reaching around 700 by 2010.

In tandem with the changes brought about by the National Manpower Programme, the BAI course structure was amended to a common first two years focusing on the engineering sciences followed by a choice of specialisation for the second two years drawn from:

  • Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering
  • Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic and Computer Engineering
  • Computer Engineering

A unique and distinguishing feature of the Trinity engineering programme is that it has always allowed students a free choice, unfettered by quotas, with regard to their selection of discipline specialisation. It can also be said that the common first two years curriculum feature has served both the College and the engineering graduate well, particularly in times of economic recession. Since 2012, students have been offered a further option, that of Biomedical Engineering. This mirrors the broadening research activities being carried out within the ambit of mechanical engineering.

For several years prospective employers voiced the need for mechanical engineering graduates with training in management methods, in addition to mechanical engineering. In October 2000 the first students were enrolled on the B.Sc. (Ing) programme in Engineering with Management.

All streams of the BAI programme and the B.Sc.(Ing) have official national and international recognition through accreditation by the statutory agency Engineers Ireland. This signifies that the degree programmes satisfy the educational requirements for award of the title CEng (Chartered Engineer). The Bologna Declaration of 1999 sought to establish a common set of requirements for engineering programmes across Europe. Under this protocol, the basic model for a professional engineering programme would be of five years duration leading to a masters degree. Engineers Ireland accepted the Bologna Declaration and from 2013 onwards only a masters qualification would be acceptable as satisfying the educational requirements for chartered membership. Trinity responded to the challenge by instigating a five year programme leading to the award of an MAI masters degree in addition to the historical ordinary BA. The first of these MAI degrees were conferred in 2013 and the associated five year programmes are fully accredited by Engineers Ireland.