International Collaborative Explores Design for New Engineering Education Ph.D. Program in South Africa

Drs. Jenni Case, Nicky Wolmarans, and Corrinne Shaw
From left to right: Dr. Jenni Case, Dr. Corrinne Shaw, and Dr. Nicky Wolmarans

Dr. Jenni Case, professor and department head of engineering education at Virginia Tech, has become an international partner in an important initiative in South African higher education.  The University of Cape Town, South Africa has received a grant from the South African Department of Higher Education to establish a structured cross-institutional Ph.D. program in engineering education.  

“We are really delighted to be the international partner for this important initiative in South African higher education,” said Case.  “We have a well established Ph.D. program in Engineering Education and are really keen to strengthen the link with the South African academics who are running this project to build capacity in South African doctoral production in this field.  No doubt there will be important learnings in both directions.”

Drs. Nicky Wolmarans (project lead) and Corrinne Shaw from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, recently visited Virginia Tech with an overall goal to gather information to inform the design on their new program.  During their visit, they were able to meet with both faculty and students who both shared the components that make up the engineering education Ph.D. experience at Virginia Tech.

“We were welcomed by staff and students who showed much interest in the project and who generously gave of their time, resources and ideas,” said Shaw.  “As a consequence we are leaving with much more than we had hoped for and have been inspired and encouraged by the visit. We look forward to our continued partnership.”

Engineering education research is an interdisciplinary field that is changing the way that engineers are educated.  The field of engineering education is dominated by engineers, many of whom want to provide students with better educational experiences than they themselves had. Impacting practice is a strong value that distinguishes engineering education from some other fields. The South African government has taken notice on the value that this type of research can bring to the classroom and has provided the funding for the collaboration to help make the new program a reality.

The overall project will be implemented as part of South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training’s University Capacity Development Programme (UCDP).  The University of Cape Town is the lead university for the project in collaboration with Virginia Tech, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).  More information about their new program can be found here:


Written by Linda Hazelwood