Advanced Silicon Processing & Manufacturing Techniques

Mission Statement
About this Postgraduate Programme
University Partners
Industry Partners
Modules within the Programme
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Apply
  • Introduction

The 'University Network for the Silicon Industry' is the umbrella organisation within which the IGDS Programme functions. Development of the technical material used in the IGDS programme is funded under a contract placed by the EPSRC. When appropriate this material is used to facilitate the development and delivery of self-funding short courses, as and when requested by industry, and also specialist lectures and promotional presentations in colleges and schools to promote microelectronics as an intellectually stimulating, well remunerated career.

The logistical structure of the 'University Network for the Silicon Industry' is shown below:

A paper presented at the European Workshop on Microelectronics Education (EWME 2000) - Aix En Provence, France, 18th to 19th May 2000, is included below:




PLF Hemment(1) and CM Dyson(2)
(1)University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK
(2)National Microelectronics Institute, Edinburgh, UK

A new part-time modular postgraduate Masters-level programme developed by a consortium of ten universities is described. The philosophy and strategies adopted by the academic and industrial partners in designing a world class, relevant and cost effective programme for professional engineers employed in the Silicon industry are discussed. The route for exploitation is through the creation of a 'University Network for the Silicon Industry'

1. Introduction

The growth in the use of electronics in everyone's daily life continues to explode. This has led to electronics becoming the fastest growing industry in the world - and it depends on a supply of semiconductor Integrated Circuits (ICs). However, the rate of growth continues to make it difficult for the semiconductor industry to match capacity with demand. It takes close to three years to bring a manufacturing plant to full capacity. By the time a shortage has arisen, it is too late to invest.

Only twelve months ago the semiconductor industry was facing temporary over-capacity and the associated low product prices. And now we are faced, once more, with lengthening lead times for products, capacity shortages and rising semiconductor prices. Plants in the UK are running at capacity. Many are expanding and taking on more staff. Filtronic have purchased the mothballed Fujitsu fab near Durham, and are ramping-up to produce GaAs circuits for mobile phones. The empty plants in Newcastle, Dunfermline and Newport are attractive facilities to bring back into production rapidly. This market dynamic results in the need for the industry to be able to staff new plants rapidly. This can only be achieved by ensuring that the industry builds a strong base of experienced engineers that is able to sustain periods of rapid growth. The situation is compounded by the rapid development of technology in the industry. It is necessary to refresh the skills of employees in this rapidly changing environment on a continuous basis so that they are in a position to introduce and operate the next generation of advanced processes.

Against this background, the semiconductor industry and academia in the UK have been collaborating for over 8 years to address the requirements for education and training. This has led to a number of initiatives, including:

  • The development of a standardised skills pipeline for the industry.
  • A vocational education and training system to develop operators and technicians. This involves vocational education qualifications run at a network of Further Education Colleges and vocational training qualifications that are taught 'on the job'. This work is currently being extended by the colleges to provide the same material in a distance learning format.
  • A part time postgraduate programme at Masters-level, which is the subject of this paper.

2. Justification and Development

Silicon manufacturing demands knowledge of materials, device physics, process chemistry, batch manufacturing, statistics, quality management and other disciplines. There is general agreement that this breadth of knowledge cannot be achieved through undergraduate courses. Rather the industry prefers to attract employees with undergraduate training in a wide range of relevant disciplines and for them to apply their skills in teams to address the industries specific problems. This approach brings flexibility and adaptability to problem solving. However, it does mean that there is a requirement in the industry to provide ways in which engineers can address any gaps in their education.

The new MSc programme evolved in 1997 from discussions between industry and academia to address the shortage of process and manufacturing engineers. It was recognised that there was (and is) a world-wide shortage of up-to-date specialist, postgraduate training and education courses in IC manufacture. At that time, UK industry estimated that it would require the equivalent of an additional 60 MSc graduates each year to maintain its rate of growth. Yet, ironically, during the late 1990's, a number of UK University courses had been discontinued or postponed due to the dearth of suitable applicants.

The solution adopted was for industry and academia to work together to develop a new, dedicated set of Masters-level postgraduate modules, based on the expertise in silicon processing and technology already existing in a consortium of ten UK Universities . Each of the partner universities has justified its inclusion through its academic strength in a specific topic area. The active participation of industry ensures that the technical content of the course is fully up to date and relevant. It also provides a steady flow of applicants.

The title of the programme is "Advanced Silicon Processing and Manufacturing Technologies". The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) provided 435,000 funding, over 5 years, for the development of the programme under its Integrated Graduate Development Scheme (IGDS). Industry has supported the programme by contracting to fund a minimum number of delegates each year.

The programme is designed for graduate engineers employed in the silicon manufacturing sector. It provides specialist training for staff wishing to extend their technical knowledge and a "fast track" for career development of future senior engineers and engineering managers.

It is very flexible. Delegates can chose to study a single module or take 4 modules to obtain a Certificate, 8 modules for a Diploma, or 8 modules and a in-company project to obtain an MSc. They may join the programme at any time and, if they so wish, defer registration for a qualification until after taking a few modules.

The large number of University partners created a number of logistical and organisational problems, which have been resolved in imaginative, novel ways:

Ownership: the programme is jointly owned by the partner universities.

Quality assurance: the partners have established a single Validation Panel to ensure that the highest academic standards are maintained across all partners. It avoids each University having to validate all other University's courses before awarding a degree. This is a unique concept in the UK and has proven to be highly successful.

Registration and Awards: delegates register with one of the partner universities and the academic awarded is in the name of that university. They may transfer their registration between Universities.

Common procedures: UK universities are autonomous institutions, each with its own statutes, regulations and procedures. The consortium has endorsed a Memorandum of Agreement documenting common procedures for the smooth running of the programme. In a few situations, such as appeals and discipline, the individual partner's regulations take precedence.

The difficulties in the semiconductor sector during 1998/99 temporarily reduced demand for the course and delayed the start until the current upturn in the industry. The first intake of delegates was accepted during Spring 2000.

3. Organisation and Management

The management structure of the programme is shown in the following diagram:

4. Technical Content and Delivery

The programme presently offers a choice of 16 taught modules. Each module has a duration of about two months involving distance learning plus an intensive one-week residential week held at the partner university that is delivering the module. An MSc delegate will be absent from his/her place of work for no more than 12 weeks during a typical three year period of study. Each unit of study carries a fee of 1200 so an MSc is costed at 10,800. Current module titles and the University convenors are:

1. Device and Process Integration for Silicon ICs University of Edinburgh   9. Device and Circuit Design for VLSI University of Cardiff
2. Measurement Techniques and Failure Analysis UMIST   10. Ion Implantation University of Surrey
3. Power Devices and Processes University of Swansea   11. Lithography University of Edinburgh
4. Statistics for Semi-conductor Manufacturing Heriot-Watt University   12. Etching: Physics and Chemistry University of Glasgow
5. Layer Deposition and Diffusion University of Southampton   13. Test, Assembly and Packaging University of Cardiff
6. Interconnect and Metallisation University of Newcastle   14. Oxidation and Isolation Technology University of Liverpool
7. Optimisation of Processes University of Edinburgh   15. TCAD and Compact Modelling University of Newcastle
8. Production Management Heriot-Watt University   16. Device Operation and Process Architectures University of Glasgow

The technical content of each module has been developed in close collaboration with industrial advisors. When appropriate industrial experts act as lecturers.

5. Future Plans

This programme provides the nucleus of a 'University Network for the Silicon Industry'. The courses and material developed will be used to provide less intensive short courses and as the basis for courses in Further Education colleges and schools in the UK.

Work is also progressing with a view to establishing a parallel Masters-level programme in IC design and embedded software. Again, modules will be provided by UK Universities with specialist expertise. The focus on distance learning will continue. Delegates will be able to run a full suite of CAD tools remotely over ISDN lines, following the lead of the IGDS course presently offered by Bolton Institute and the University of Northumbria at Newcastle.

6. Conclusions

A part time, modular postgraduate MSc programme has been described that has been developed to meet the particular needs of the UK. In the future the programme will be made available more broadly to EU partners and will be the basis of new Short Courses designed to address the issues of the skills shortage and skills mismatch that is evident.


The authors would like to acknowledge the work of David MacNicol at the NMI, Sandy Peace at the University of Surrey and all the contributors to the programme from academia and industry. Details of the programme can be obtained from



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Mrs Sandra Peace
IGDS Programme Co-ordinator
IGDS Office
School of Electronics and Physical Sciences
Information Technology and Mathematics
University of Surrey

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